OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY.
TALES OF THE FAIRIES
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
MYTHS AND FOLK-LORE OF IRELAND
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MYTHS AND FOLK-TALES OF THE RUSSIANS,
WESTERN SLAVS, AND MAGYARS
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Boston: Little, Brown & Company
London : Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd.
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HERO TALES OF IRELAND
Crown 8vo, gilt top, 8s. 6d. net
Boston : Little, Brown & Company
London : Macmillan & Co
Tales of the Fairies
AND OF THE
COLLECTED FROM ORAL TRADITION
PUBLISHED BY DAVID NUTT
IN THE STRAND
Mr. Jeremiah Curtin needs no introduction to the
lovers of Gaelic lore and legend. By the publication of
his two volumes, Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland (Boston :
Little, Brown & Co.; London : S. Low & Co., 1890) and
Hero Tales of 'Ireland (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1894),
as well as of the large collection which, as yet, has only
appeared in the Sunday edition of The Sun (New
York), he has approved himself the foremost collector of
Irish oral literature, and has brought together an amount
of material which, for intrinsic interest, holds its own by
the side of Campbell of Islay's Popular Tales of the West
Highlands, The present collection supplements the two
I have just cited. The first of these comprises, mainly,
special Irish forms of tales found throughout the
European world; the second is devoted to a class of
composition practically confined to Gaeldom, and con-
stituting the present form of a narrative genre the history
of which we can trace on Gaelic soil for at least 1000
years ; in this volume the present-day belief of the Irish
peasantry in the extra-human world it is, which, chiefly,
is noted and illustrated. This class of Irish folk-lore
attracted attention from the first, and forms the staple of
the earliest collection, Croker's Fairy Legends and Tra-
ditions of the South of Ireland^ drawn largely, by-the-bye,
from the same districts as those which have yielded
material to Mr. Curtin. In spite, however, of the fact
that the field has been well worked, Mr. Curtin has been
remarkably successful in discovering and recording new
matter, whilst even in the case of well-known stories his
variants possess distinct value. For the student, apart from
the witness these tales bear to the vivid reality of the fairy
and ghost belief among the peasantry in Southern Ireland
at the present day, two points are of special interest.
The process of adaptation by which tales, old-world and
far-travelled, are fitted into a modern local framework, is
clearly exhibited — that process, thanks to which these
tales have struck root in every age and every clime, and
still form the chiefest portion of the intellectual and
artistic store of mankind at large. An interesting example
is furnished by the tale of John Shea and the Treasure :
the machinery is that of Gaelic romance in its most
archaic form; the name of the mythic marvel-land,
Lochlin, is still retained, but the whole is transmuted into
an anecdote of a man who died in 1847. The tales
about St. Martin are equally instructive ; the transference
of attributes from the pagan wizard-lord, master of
mysterious flocks subject to mysterious taboos, which, if
broken, not all their owners' might may avail, to the
Christian saint goes on as it were before our eyes.
What a lesson for those to whom the saint's presence
suggests a late and purely Christian origin for the whole
Far more interesting and complex are the questions
raised regarding the Irish peasant's belief in the extra-
human and non-divine powers. These are of two classes
— fairies and ghosts ; and our collection would seem to
show some transference of attribute from the one class to
the other. I say, would seem, as the question cannot be
lightly decided. It is a fact that the fairy belief informs
and animates Gaelic romance for at least a thousand
years, that the pre-Christian kings of the euhemerising
annalists, the wizard champions of the bardic reciters, the
ruined angels of the Christian moralist, are substantially
one with the "good people" of the living peasant;
equally a fact that the " ghost," in our sense of the word,
is a rare and unimportant visitor in early Gaelic legend,
which troubles itself very slightly with man after death;
and has practically nothing to say concerning his
influence for good or evil upon the living. How different
from these tales, which are full of spectres and per-
meated by a vital faith in the continued activity of a
" something " after life has departed the body. Is this a
later stage of conception ? Is it due to Christianity ? Is
rather the product of an older, ruder race than that of the
Aryan Celts to whom we owe Gaelic mythology ? In how
far has it influenced and been influenced by the fairy belief?
These are questions deserving serious study. Note the
curious incident of the fairy dwellers of the cromlech-
mound (p. 65). This seems at first sight to make for Mr.
MacRitchie's contention, that the fairies were a real race
of small underground dwellers. But if one thing seems
certain, it is, that far back as we can trace Gaelic civili-
sation in Ireland — say 2000 years — these "fairy" mounds
are graves, and their sanctity must in some way be
derived from their destination. Has the whole fairy
belief sprung out of ancestor-worship, and, after pass-
ing through a brilliantly romantic form in the minds of
poets, is it reverting to its pristine shape in the minds of
the peasant? In any case, it is curious to note how
Elizabeth Shea (" The Fairies of Rahonain "), unwilling
inmate as she is of Fairyland, has the power and ruthless
persistence of an ordinary ghost who has an object to
attain. As a rule, the imprisoned mortal is powerless to
revisit everyday earth, but Elizabeth comes and goes,
and punishes her neglectful kinsfolk in true spectre
For the elucidation of the many fascinating problems
of Gaelic folk-lore, to the insight of the scholar must be
joined the sympathy of the artist. The brief — too brief —
comments which Mr. Curtin has added to the material he
has collected show that he possesses both qualifications,
and make us long for a connected and systematic inter-
pretation of Gaelic mythic belief and legend at his
JOHN CONNORS AND THE FAIRIES
FITZGERALD AND DANIEL DONOGHUE .
FAIRIES OF RAHONAIN AND ELIZABETH SHEA
THE KNIGHTS OF KERRY RAHONAIN CASTLE
THE CATTLE JOBBER OF AWNASCAWIL
THE MIDWIFE OF LISTOWEL
DANIEL CROWLEY AND THE GHOSTS .
TOM DALY AND THE NUT-EATING GHOST .
TOM CONNORS AND THE DEAD GIRL .
THE FARMER OF TRALEE AND THE FAIRY COWS
THE TWO GAMBLERS AND THE FAIRIES
THE GIRL AND THE ROBBER
MAURICE GRIFFIN AND THE FAIRY DOCTOR
THE THREE SISTERS AND THEIR HUSBANDS'
JOHN SHEA AND THE TREASURE
st. martin s eve . . . .
james murray and saint martin .
fairy cows .....
john reardon and the sister ghosts
maggie doyle and the dead man .
pat doyle and the ghost .
the ghost of sneem
the dead mother
tim sheehy sent back to this world
tom moore and the seal woman .
the four-leafed shamrock .
john cokeley and the fairy
tom Foley's ghost
the blood-drawing ghost
TALES OF THE FAIRIES
DURING my travels in Ireland I made a stay of
some time at the house of a farmer at a cross-road
west of Dingle. Besides cultivating two farms, this man
kept a small country store, near the famous Ventry
Strand, had a contract to keep a road in repair, and was,
in general, an active person. He had built an addition
in two stories to his house, and the upper story he rented
to me. The part which I occupied was at the intersec-
tion of the roads, and had windows looking out on both
of them. Not far from the house was the chapel,* and
about a mile beyond that the graveyard. The position
was a good one from which to observe the people of the
district as they passed to and fro on the two roads.
My host, Maurice Fitzgerald, was a man who knew the
whole countryside well, spoke Gaelic with more ease
than English, and held intimate relations with the oldest
inhabitants. He knew the Gaelic name of every field
* In rural Ireland "chapel" means a Catholic church;
" church," Protestant church.
2 Tales of the Fairies
within two miles of his house and the name of every hill,
cliff, and mountain for many a mile. It may be stated
here that in the Gaelic-speaking parts of Ireland there is
a most complete system of naming every spot that needs
to be distinguished from those around it. My host was
a man who retained a belief in fairies, though he did not
acknowledge it — at least, explicitly and in words.
"When I was a boy," said he, "nine men in ten
believed in fairies, and said so ; now only one man in
ten will say that he believes in them. If one of the nine
believes, he will not tell you ; he will keep his mind to
It is very interesting indeed to find a society with even
ten per cent, of the population professed believers in
fairies. Of the remaining ninety per cent, a majority
are believers without profession, timid believers, men
without the courage of their convictions. The minority
of the ninety per cent, falls into two parts, one com-
posed of people of various degrees of belief in the fairy
creed and philosophy, the other unbelievers. If one
were to borrow the terms used in describing shades of
difference in religious experience during our time, this
minority might be divided into doubters, agnostics, and
The people of any purely Gaelic district in Ireland,
where the language is spoken yet, preserve numerous
remnants of pre-Christian belief, and these remnants are,
in many cases, very valuable. Grotesque, naive, and
Tales of the Fairies 3
baseless they seem to observers almost always, but if
the beliefs and opinions of the ordinary great ones of
the earth be examined with due care, and with that
freedom of spirit which is indispensable in such inves-
tigations, it will be found that many of them are not a
whit more reasonable nor built on a better basis than
the fairy creed of Ireland.
The people in Ireland have clung to their ancient
beliefs with a vividness of faith which in our time is really
phenomenal. Other nations have preserved large and
(for science) precious heritages of superstition, but
generally they have preserved them in a kind of me-
chanical way. The residuum of beliefs which they give
us lack that connection with the present which is so
striking in the case of the Irish. Certain divisions of
the great Slave race have preserved a splendid remnant
of the old cosmic philosophy of pre-Christian times, and
preserved parts of it with remarkable distinctness, but
for all people who speak English the beliefs of the Irish
contained in their tales have a near interest and a popu-
lar value that no similar productions of other nations are
likely to attain.
As fairies are made to take such frequent part in Irish
country life, and come to one's mind almost involuntarily
when speaking of the supernatural in Ireland, I think it
well to give in this connection some of the fairy tales
and ghost stories told me at that house on the cross-road.
These tales will show how vivid the belief of the people
4 Tales of the Fairies
is yet, and will prove that fairies are not for all men per-
sonages of the past, but are as real for some persons as
any other fact in life in this last decade of the nineteenth
After I had written down all the tales about Fin Mac
Cool and other heroes that I could find in that region, I
invited my host to come to me in the evening and bring
two or three men to tell strange adventures of our own
time, true tales of the district.
I was moved to this by what I had learned at the
funeral of a man who had died from a fairy stroke a few
days before, and by meeting two men who had been
injured by similar strokes. One of the two was a
farmers son who had fallen asleep incautiously while
near a fairy fort and was made a cripple for life ; the
other was a man of fairly good education, who, besides
his English knowledge, read and wrote Gaelic. I was
unable to obtain the details relating to his case, but the
man who died had interfered with a fairy fort and hurt his
hand in the act. The deceased was only thirty-three
years old, a strong, healthy person, but after he had
meddled with the fort his hand began to swell, and grew
very painful. The best doctors were summoned, but
gave no relief, and the man died from a fairy stroke,
according to the statement of all, or nearly all, the
After supper the " man of the house " came with two
other persons, and we passed a very interesting evening.
Tales of the Fairies 5
One of the two visitors was a blind man named Dyeermud
Duvane, about forty years of age, and born in the neigh-
bourhood, who had been in America, where he lost his
eyesight. He related to me somewhat of his life in the
United States. He had been a worker in quarries, had
been in charge of gangs of men in New England and the
West. He had saved a considerable sum of money
when he was placed over a gang of Italians in one of the
quarries near Springfield, Mass. The Italians became
enraged at him for some reason, and blew up the poor
man in the quarry. He lost his sight, and lay in a
Boston hospital till his money was gone. After that his
friends sent him home, where he lives now in a very
small way. Though blind, he found a wife, and with
her lives in a little cottage, has a garden and a quarter of
an acre of potatoes.
This blind man, though a sceptic by nature, knew
some good cases of fairy action, and told the first story
of the evening. The second man was seventy years old,
white-haired, with a fair complexion, and blue eyes
which were wonderfully clear and serious. This was a
genuine believer in fairies and a rare example of one
type of old Irishmen. He lived near a fairy fort about
a mile distant ; his name was John Malone. His family
and friends had suffered from fairies, and his daughter-
in-law died from a fairy stroke.
After some preliminary conversation, the blind man
began as follows :
( 6 )
JOHN CONNORS AND THE FAIRIES
There was a man named John Connors, who lived near
Killarney, and was the father of seven small children, all
daughters and no sons. Connors fell into such rage and
anger at having so many daughters, without any sons, that
when the seventh daughter was born he would not come
from the field to see the mother or the child.
When the time came for christening he wouldn't go
for sponsors, and. didn't care whether the wife lived or
died. A couple of years after that a son was born to
him, and some of the women ran to the field and told
John Connors that he was the father of a fine boy.
Connors was so delighted that he caught the spade he
had with him and broke it on the ditch. He hurried
home then and sent for bread and meat, with provisions
of all kinds to supply the house.
" There are no people in the parish," said he to the
wife, " fit to stand sponsors for this boy, and when night
comes I'll ride over to the next parish and find sponsors
When night came he bridled and saddled his horse,
mounted, and rode away toward the neighbouring parish
to invite a friend and his wife to be godfather and god-
mother to his son. The village to which he was going
John Connors and the Fairies 7
was Beaufort, south of Killarney. There was a public-
house on the road. Connors stepped in and treated the
bystanders, delayed there a while, and then went his way.
When he had gone a couple of miles he met a stranger
riding on a white horse, a good-looking gentleman wear-
ing red knee-breeches, swallow-tailed coat, and a Caroline
hat (a tall hat).
The stranger saluted John Connors, and John returned
the salute. The stranger asked where was he going at
such an hour.
"Fm going," said Connors, "to Beaufort to find
sponsors for my young son."
"Oh, you foolish man," said the stianger; "you left
the road a mile behind you. Turn back and take the
John Connors turned back as directed, but never
came to a cross-road. He was riding about half an hour
when he met the same gentleman, who asked: "Are
you the man I met a while ago going to Beaufort ? "
" Why, you fool, you passed the road a mile or more
behind. Turn back and take the right hand road.
What trouble is on you that you cannot see a road when
you are passing it ? "
Connors turned and rode on for an hour or so, but
found no side road. The same stranger met him for the
third time, and asked him the same question, and told
him he must turn back. " But the night is so far gone,"
8 Tales of the Fairies
said he, " that you'd better not be waking people. My
house is near by. Stay with me till morning. You can
go for the sponsors to-morrow."
John Connors thanked the stranger and said he
would go with him. The stranger took him to a
fine castle then, and told him to dismount and come
" Your horse will be taken care of," said he, " I have
John Connors rode a splendid white horse, and the
like of him wasn't in the country round. The gentleman
had a good supper brought to Connors. After supper
he showed him a bed and said, "Take off your clothes
and sleep soundly till morning."
When Connors was asleep the stranger took the
clothes, formed a corpse just like John Connors, put the
clothes on it, tied the body to the horse, and leading the
beast outside, turned its head towards home. He kept
John Connors asleep in bed for three weeks.
The horse went towards home and reached the village
next morning. The people saw the horse with the dead
body on its back, and all thought it was the body of John
Connors. Everybody began to cry and lament for their
neighbour. He was taken off the horse, stripped,
washed, and laid out on the table. There was a great
wake that night, everybody mourning and lamenting
over him, for wasn't he a good man and the father of a
large family ? The priest was sent for to celebrate mass
John Connors and the Fairies 9
and attend the funeral, which he did. There was a
Three weeks later John Connors was roused from his
sleep by the gentleman, who came to him and said :
" It is high time for you to be waking. Your son is
christened. The wife, thinking you would never come,
had the child baptized, and the priest found sponsors.
Your horse stole away from here and went home."
" Sure then I am not long sleeping ? "
" Indeed, then, you are : it is three whole days and
nights that you are in that bed."
John Connors sat up and looked around for his
clothes, but if he did he could not see a stitch of them.
" Where are my clothes ? " asked he.
" I know nothing of your clothes, my man, and the
sooner you go out o' this the better."
Poor John was astonished. " God help me, how am
I to go home without my clothes ? If I had a shirt
itself, it wouldn't be so bad ; but to go without a rag at
all on me ! "
" Don't be talking," said the man ; " take a sheet and
be off with yourself. I have no time to lose on the like
John grew in dread of the man, and taking the sheet,
went out. When well away from the place he turned to
look at the castle and its owner, but if he did there was
nothing before him but fields and ditches.
The time as it happened was Sunday morning, and
io Tales of the Fairies
Connors saw at some distance down the road people on
their way to mass. He hurried to the fields for fear of
being seen by somebody. He kept the fields and
walked close to the ditches till he reached the side
of a hill, and went along by that, keeping well out of
sight. As he was nearing his own village at the side of
the mountain there happened to be three or four little
boys looking for stray sheep. Seeing Connors, they
knew him as the dead man buried three weeks before.
They screamed and ran away home, some of them falling
with fright. When they came to the village they cried
that they had seen John Connors, and he with a sheet
Now, it is the custom in Ireland when a person dies to
sprinkle holy water on the clothes of the deceased and
then give them to poor people or to friends for God's
sake. It is thought that by giving the clothes in this
way the former owner has them to use in the other
world. The person who wears the clothes must wear
them three times to mass one Sunday after another and
sprinkle them each time with holy water. After that
they may be worn as the person likes.
When the women of the village heard the story pf the
boys some of them went to the widow and said:
" 'Tis your fault that your husband's ghost is roaming
around in nakedness. You didn't give away his
" I did, indeed," said the wife. " I did my part, but
John Connors and the Fairies ii
it must be that the man I gave them to didn't wear them
to mass, and that is why my poor husband is naked in
the other world."
Now she went straight to the relative and neighbour
who got the clothes. As she entered the man was
sitting down to breakfast.
" Bad luck to you, you heathen ! " said she. " I did
not think you the man to leave my poor John naked in
the other world. You neither went to mass in the
clothes I gave you nor sprinkled holy water on
" I did, indeed. This is the third Sunday since John
died, and I went to mass this morning for the third time.
Sure I'd be a heathen to keep a relative naked in the
other world. It wasn't your husband that the boys saw
She went home then, satisfied that everything had
been done as it should be.
An uncle of John Connors lived in the same village.
He was a rich farmer and kept a servant girl and a
servant boy. The turf bog was not far away, and all the
turf at the house being burned, the servant girl was told
to go down to the reek* and bring home a creelf of turf.
She went to the reek and was filling her creel, when she
happened to look towards the far end of the reek, and
there she saw a man sticking his head out from behind
the turf, and he with a sheet on him. She looked
* A long pile of turf. f Basket.
*2 Tales of the Fairies
a second time and saw John Connors. The girl
screamed, threw down the creel, and ran away, falling
every few steps from terror. It was to the reek that
Connors had gone, to wait there in hiding till dark.
After that he could go to his own house without any one
The servant girl fell senseless across the farmer's
threshold, and when she recovered she said : " John
Connors is below in the bog behind the reek of turf,
and nothing but a sheet on him."
The farmer and the servant boy laughed at her and
said : " This is the way with you always when there's
work to do."
The boy started off to bring the turf himself, but as he
was coming near the reek John Connors thrust his head
out, and the boy ran home screeching worse than the
girl. Nobody would go near the creek now, and the
report went out that John Connors was below in the bog
minding the turf. Early that evening John Connors'
wife made her children go on their knees and offer up
the rosary for the repose of their father's soul. After the
rosary they went to bed in a room together, but were not
long in it when there was a rap at the door. The poor
woman asked who was outside. John Connors answered
that it was himself.
"May the Almighty God and His blessed Mother
give rest to your soul ! " cried the wife, and the children
crossed themselves and covered their heads with the bed-
John Connors and the Fairies 13
clothes. They were in dread he'd come in through the
keyhole ; they knew a ghost could do that if it wished.
John went to the window of two panes of glass and
was tapping at that. The poor woman looked out, and
there she saw her husband's face. She began to pray
again for the repose of his soul, but he called out :
" Bad luck to you, won't you open the door to me or
throw out some clothes ? I am perishing from cold."
This only convinced the woman more surely. John
didn't like to break the door, and as it was strong, it
wouldn't be easy for him to break it, so he left the
house and went to his uncle's. When he came to the
door all the family were on their knees repeating the
rosary for the soul of John Connors. He knocked, and
the servant girl rose up to see who was outside. She un-
bolted and unlatched the door, opened it a bit, but
seeing Connors, she came near cutting his nose off, she
shut it that quickly in his face. She bolted the door
then and began to scream: "John Connors' ghost is
haunting me ! Not another day or night will I stay in
the house if I live to see morning ! "
All the family fastened themselves in in a room and
threw themselves into bed, forgetting to undress or to
finish their prayers. John Connors began to kick the
door, but nobody would open it ; then he tapped at the
window and begged the uncle to let him in or put out
some clothes to him, but the uncle and children were
out of their wits with fear.
14 Tales of the Fairies
The doctor's house was the next one, and Connors
thought to himself, " I might as well go to the doctor and
tell all to him ; tell him that the village is gone mad."
So he made his way to the doctor's, but the servant boy
there roared and screeched from terror when he saw him,
ran to his master, and said, "John Connors' ghost is
below at the door, and not a thing but a sheet on him."
"You were always a fool," said the doctor. " There
is never a ghost in this world."
" God knows, then, the ghost of John Connors is at
the door," said the boy.
To convince the boy, the master raised the upper
window. He looked out and saw the ghost sure
enough. Down went the window with a slap.
" Don't open the door I " cried the doctor. " He is
below ; there is some mystery in this."
Since the doctor wouldn't let him in any more than
the others, John Connors was cursing and swearing
" God be good to us," said the doctor. " His soul
must be damned, for if his soul was in purgatory it is not
cursing and swearing he'd be, but praying. Surely, 'tis
damned he is, and the Lord have mercy on the people
of this village ; but I won't stay another day in it ; I'll
move to the town to-morrow morning."
Now John left the doctor's house and went to the
priest, thinking that he could make all clear to the priest,
for everybody else had gone mad. He knocked at the
John Connors and the Fairies 15
priest's door and the housekeeper opened it. She
screamed and ran away, but left the door open behind
her. As she was running towards the stairs she fell,
and the priest, hearing the fall, hurried out to see what
the matter was.
" Oh, father," cried the housekeeper, " John Connors'
ghost is below in the kitchen, and he with only a
sheet on him ! "
" Not true," said the priest. " There is never a person
seen after parting with this world."
The words were barely out of his mouth when the
ghost was there before him.
" In the name of God," said the priest, " are you dead
or alive? You must be dead, for I said mass in your
house, and you a corpse on the table, and I was at your
"How can you be foolish like the people of the
village ? I'm alive. Who would kill me ? "
" God, who kills everybody, and but for your being
dead, how was I to be asked to your funeral ? "
" 'Tis all a mistake," said John. " If it's dead I was
it isn't here I'd be talking to you to-night."
" If you are alive, where are your clothes ? "
" I don't know where they are or how they went from
me, but I haven't them, sure enough."
"Go into the kitchen," said the priest. "I'll bring
you clothes, and then you must tell me what happened
1 6 Tales of the Fairies
When John had the clothes on he told the priest the
day the child was born he went to Beaufort for sponsors,
and, being late, he met a gentleman, who sent him back
and forth on the road and then took him to his house.
" I went to bed," said John, " and slept till he waked
me. My clothes were gone from me then, and I had
nothing to wear but an old sheet. More than this I
don't know : but everybody runs from me, and my wife
won't let me into the house."
" Oh, then, it's Daniel O'Donohue, King of Lochlein,
that played the trick on you," said the priest. " Why
didn't you get sponsors at home in this parish for your
son as you did for your daughters ? For the remainder
of your life show no partiality to son or daughter among
your children. It would be a just punishment if more
trouble came to you. You were not content with the
will of God, though it is the duty of every man to take
what God gives him. Three weeks ago your supposed
body was buried and all thought you dead through your
own pride and wilfulness."
"That is why my wife wouldn't let me in. Now,
your Reverence, come with me and convince my wife,
or she will not open the door."
The priest and John Connors went to the house and
knocked, but the answer they got was a prayer for the
repose of John Connors' soul. The priest went to the
window then and called out to open the door.
Mrs. Connors opened the door, and seeing her hus-
Fitzgerald and Daniel O'Donohue 17
band behind the priest she screamed and fell : a little
girl that was with her at the door dropped speechless on
the floor. When the woman recovered, the priest began
to persuade her that her husband was living, but she
wouldn't believe that he was alive till she took hold of
his hand : then she felt of his face and hair and was
When the priest had explained everything he went
No matter how large his family was in after years,
John Connors never went from home to find sponsors.
FITZGERALD AND DANIEL
When the blind man had finished, my host said :
" There's many a story about that same Daniel O'Dono-
hue, a fairy chief and King of Lochlein : Lochlein is
the old name of the upper lake of Killarney. I used to
hear many of those stories when I was young, but not
one can I think of now. Sometimes the fairy chief was
called O'Donohue of the Glen. There is a Knight of
the Glen, too, near Killarney, and maybe he is the
O'Donohue, for O'Donohue had a steed of the bells
1 8 Tales of the Fairies
which the Black Thief was striving to steal, and so had
the Knight of the Glen ; but however that may be, I will
tell you this :
" There was an old man named Fitzgerald, who lived
in a neighbouring village. He was very fond of his
garden, and spent all his time in it. One summer he
had a beautiful field of ' white pink ' potatoes. Once
he had a fit of sickness, and was three days in bed.
While the old man was keeping the bed the blight came
on his potatoes and withered them.
" The saying was at that time that the fairies of Ulster
were stronger than the fairies of Munster, and so they
drove blight from Ulster to Munster.
" The fourth night the old man rose from his bed and
crept out to take a look at his potato field, for his heart
was in it. The night was very bright, the sky clear, and
the moon full. He saw, sure enough, that the blight
had come on his potatoes and destroyed them. He
went into the house, took his blackthorn stick, and sat
over the fire, and whittled it here and there. Then he
went into the field with his bare head and feet, spat on
his hand, took a firm grip on the stick, and, brandishing
it, cried out time after time, as loud as he could, rushing
the while from one end of the garden to the other :
' Daniel O'Donohue, come and take me with you to-
nihgt to the fairies and show me the man among them
who destroyed my potatoes. I'll go with you to-night
Fitzgerald and Daniel O'Donohue 19
and to-morrow night and every night, if you'll bring me
back to this spot again/
" All the men and boys gathered around outside the
ditch and listened to him, and he went on in this way a
long while, calling on the chief fairy, Daniel O'Donohue,
King of Lochlein, and challenging all the fairies of
Ulster, and promising, if he couldn't do for them all
himself, he had neighbours who would go with him and
" At that time," said the host, " there wasn't a man in
ten who didn't believe in the fairies and think that it
was they who caused the blight, so they listened to the
old man as he went on challenging the fairies of the
North, offering his help to Daniel O'Donohue."
"The old man Fitzgerald was a strong believer in
O'Donohue and the fairies," said I ; " but have you ever
known cases where fairies caused profit to one man and
loss to another ? " "I know just such a case," said he,
"and here it is for you :
" About forty years ago there lived in this very
town, and not half a mile from where we are sitting,
a man named John Hanifin. He was a strong
farmer, and had a large herd of cows ; the cows were
driven up every morning to the milking ground, a
large open space in front of the house. In the centre
of this space a large tub was placed, into which each
servant girl poured her pail of milk as she filled it One
morning the tub was turned over and the milk spilled :
20 Tales of the Fairies
the same thing happened the second morning and the
third. No matter how they watched, or how careful
they were, the milk was spilled always.
"Hanifin's wife was very angry, and scolded the
girls so severely that they were in dread of her, and
watched the tub more closely each morning ; but if they
did, their watching was useless. At the height of the
milking the tub was turned over always and the milk
" One morning, when Hani fin was going to call the
herder to drive the cows to be milked he passed near an
old fairy fort that was on the road between the house
and the pasture, and just as he called to the herder
he heard a child crying inside the fort : it was crying
for a drink, and the woman said : ' Be quiet a while ;
Hanifin's cows are going home ; we'll soon have milk in
" Hanifin listened, but, like a wise man, said nothing.
He went home, and while the milking was going on
himself watched the tub and never let his eyes off
it, and watched all that was going on in the yard.
This morning, as a maid was finishing the milking,
a cow ran at a heifer that was walking across the yard
near the tub, pushed her against the tub, and over-
turned it. Out came Hanifin's wife, scolding and
blaming the girls. But Hanifin stopped her, saying.
' Tis no fault of the girls ; they can't help it ; I'll try
and manage this.'
Hanifin and the Fairy 21
" He kept his mind to himself, said nothing to any
one. The following morning he went as usual to call
the herder to drive up the cows, and, hearing the child
crying in the fort, he, like the brave man that he was,
went inside the fort. He saw no one, but he said:
' A child is crying for milk. A cow of mine will calve
to-morrow. I'll let no one milk that cow : you can do
what you like with her milk.'
"The tub was not turned over that morning, and
never again was it turned over. When the cow calved
Hanifin's wife herself was going to milk her, but Hanifin
said, ' Leave her alone, 111 see to that matter.' The
woman insisted, and went out to milk. To her amaze-
ment she found the cow milked and stripped already.
"The woman grew angry, thought that some of her
neighbours were taking the milk from her ; but Hanifin
said he knew all about it, and to leave the cow with him.
" Hanifin was going on well for two years, prospering
in every way, and he taking good care of the cow and
never letting a girl or a woman milk her. Whenever the
wife tried to milk the cow she found her stripped.
" Hanifin was a very soft-hearted man ; some of his
neighbours got into trouble, and he went security for
Jiem. At last, when they were not able to pay their
debts, the creditors came on Hanifin, and there was an
order against him for the whole amount.
"The bailiff came one day to drive off the cattle.
Hanifin went to the fairy fort and said : t I'm going to
22 Tales of the Fairies
lose all my cattle, but 111 try to keep the cow I gave you
and feed her still, so that the child may have milk.'
"Three bailiffs came and went down to the pasture
across the field, but when they drove the cows up as far
as the old fairy fort each bailiff was caught and thrown
hither and over by people he couldn't see ; one minute
he was on one side of a ditch and the next minute on
the other side. They were so roughly handled and
bruised that they were hardly alive, and they not seeing
who or what was doing it. The cattle, raising their tails,
bawled and ran off to the pasture. The bailiffs, sore
and wounded, went home and complained that people
had abused and beaten them ; ' that Hanifin, of course,
put them up to it.' They were so cut and bruised that
they had to give some account, and were ashamed to tell
"The following morning ten policemen and bailiffs
went to take Haninn's cattle, but when they were
driving them up and got as far as the fort they were
thrown head over heels, hither and over till they were
terribly cut and beaten, and pitched inlo thorny bushes
and holes till they were fools. The cattle, seeing this,
took fright, bawled, raised their tails, and ran back to
the pasture. The officers were barely able to leave the
place. Never again did police or bailiff meddle with
Hanifin's cows. The creditors never collected the
( *3 )
THE FAIRIES OF RAHONAIN AND
When the company came to my room on the follow-
ing evening the host brought a fourth man, Maurice
Lynch, a mason, who knew a good deal about ghosts
When he bade me good-bye the night before John
Malone promised to open the present session with a tale
which he knew to be true, for the chief actors in it were
friends of his own, " and himself was in it also." The tale
was called forth by a question concerning a practice
among the fairies (quite common it seems) of carrying
away living people and leaving substitutes in place of
them. It seems that these substitutes are corpses when
the persons borne away are marriageable young women.
When a married woman is removed a deceased counter-
feit is left to take her place. When an infant is stolen a
living imitation of the child is put in the cradle. The
substitute seems to the parents their own child, but to
any one who has the fairy vision the fraud appears in its
About thirty years ago, said the old man. there lived
in a village near Rahonain Castle a man named James
24 Tales of the Fairies
Kivane, a step-brother of my own, and he married a
woman called Elizabeth Shea. Three or four nights
after her second child was born Kivane's wife, who was
attended by her own mother and her mother-in-law,
woke and saw the bed on fire. She called to the
mother, who was there at the bedside, but had fallen
asleep. The mother sprang up, and, turning towards the
hearth, saw a cat with the face of a man on her, and
was frightened, but she had no time to look longer at
the cat. When she had the fire quenched she looked
for the cat, but not a trace of her could they find in the
house, and they never caught a sight of her again.
Two days later the young child died, and three or
four days after that the woman had a terrible pain in
her foot. It swelled to a great size, and where the
swelling was the skin looked like the bark of a tree.
The poor woman suffered terribly. They sent for the
priest many times, and spent money for masses. They
offered one priest twenty pounds to cure her, but he said
that if all the money in the kingdom were offered he
would have nothing to do with the case. He was afraid
of getting a fairy stroke himself.
The foot was swelling always, and it was that size that
a yard of linen was needed to go once. around it. The
woman was a year and a half in this way, and towards
the end she said that horses and carriages were moving
around the house every night, but she had no know-
ledge of why they were in it.
The Fairies of Rahonain 25
The mother went to an old woman, an herb doctor,
and begged her to come and cure her daughter if she
" I can cure her," said the woman, " but if I do you
must let some other one of your family go in place
Now, as all the sons and daughters were married and
had families of their own, the mother said she had no
one she could put in place of this daughter. Kivane's
wife used to raise herself by a rope which was put hang-
ing above the bed. When tired and she could hold no
longer, she would lie down again. The woman re-
mained in suffering like this till a week before she died.
She told her friends that it was no use to give her
remedies or pay money for masses to benefit her ; that
it wasn't herself that was in it at all.
On the night that the mother saw the cat with a man's
face and she sitting on the hearth, Kivane's real wife was
taken by the fairies and put in Rahonain Castle to nurse
a young child.
Nobody could tell who the sick woman was, but who-
ever she was she died, and the body was so swollen and
drawn up that the coffin was like a great box, as broad
as 'twas long. About a year after the funeral Pat
Mahony, who worked for a hotel-keeper in Dingle, went
to a fair at Lis towel. At the fair a strange man came
up to Mahony. "Where do you live?" asked the
26 Tales of the Fairies
" In Dingle," said Pat Mahony.
" Do you know families at Rahonain named Shea and
Kivane ? "
"I do," said Mahony. "Kivane's wife died about
a twelvemonth ago."
" Well," said the strange man, " I have a message for
you to the parents of that woman, Elizabeth Shea. She
is coming to my house for the last nine months. She
comes always after sunset. She lives in a fairy fort that
is on my land. This is the way we discovered the
woman : About nine months ago potatoes and milk
were put out on the dresser for one of my servants who
was away from home, and before the man came this
woman was seen going to the dresser and eating the
potatoes and drinking the milk. She came every even-
ing after that for about a month before I had courage to
speak to her. When I spoke she told me that her father,
mother, husband, and child were living near Rahonain
Castle. She gave every right token of who she was.
' I spent/ said she, ' three months in Rahonain, at first
nursing a child that was in it, but was taken after that to
the fort on the place where I am living now, in Lismore.
I have not tasted food in the fort yet/ said she, ' but at
the end of seven years I'll be forced to eat and drink
unless somebody saves me ; I cannot escape unassisted.' "
When Mahony came home to Dingle he went straight
to Rahonain and told the woman's friends all that the
strange man had told him. She had told the man, too,
The Fairies of Rahonain 27
how her friends must come with four men and a horse
and car ; that she would meet them.
Mrs. Kivane's father and brother, and I and another
neighbouring man, offered to go to Lismore, but
Kivane wouldn't go, for he had a second wife at this
time. The following morning we started, and went to the
parish priest to take his advice. He told us not to go,
and advised us in every way to stay at home. He was
afraid, I suppose, that the woman might give the people
too much knowledge of the other world. The other three
men were stopped by the priest. Sure there was no use
in my going alone, and I didn't.
Kivane's wife knew that her husband was married the
second time, for she sent word to him that she didn't
care, she would live with her father and her child. Every-
body forgot the affair for a couple of years. When a
retired policeman named Bat O'Connor was going from
Lismore to Dingle, the woman appeared before him,
saluted him, and asked was he going to Dingle, and he
said he was. She told him then if he wanted to do her
any good or service to go to her friends at Rahonain
(she gave their names) and tell them that they had
plenty of time yet to go and claim her ; that she had not
eaten fairy food so far. He promised to do as she
asked. He reached Dingle soon after, went to Rahonain
and told her friends what she had said. O'Connor,
however, didn't tell everything in full till they would
promise to go. At this the relations of Kivane's second
28 Tales of the Fairies
wife went to O'Connor and bribed him to say nothing
more. After that he was silent, and people cared no
more about the woman.
The seven years passed, and at the end of that time
Elizabeth Shea's father saw her one evening when he was
coming home from market and was about a mile beyond
Dingle. She walked nearly a mile with him, but didn't
talk. At parting she gave him a blow on the face. On
the following day he had to take to his bed, and was
blind for seven or eight years. He kept the bed most
of the time till he died. During the couple of days
before he lost his sight Shea saw the daughter come
in and give a blow to her child, which died strangely
soon after. Neither priest nor doctor could tell what
ailment was on the child.
About the time the child died Shea's second wife got
sick, and has not milked a cow nor swept the house
since. She has not gone to mass or market these twenty
years. She keeps the bed now, and will keep it while
she lives. She has no pain and is not suffering in any
way, but is dead in herself, as it were. She had a fine
young girl of a daughter, but she got a blow and died
two days after. She has three sons, but Elizabeth Shea
has never done them any harm.
( 29 )
THE KNIGHTS OF KERRY— RAHONAIN
"Is there a story about the beginning of Rahonain
Castle?" asked L
"There is," said Maurice Fitzgerald, "and though I
am not good at stories, I'll do the best I can and tell
it to you."
Long ago, when the knights of Kerry were in Dingle
and wished to build a castle in the neighbourhood, they
went to a place above Ventry, and the chief knight set
men to work there. When the men began work a voice
came up through the earth, telling them to go home and
not mind that place. They put their spades on their
shoulders and walked away.
They went back to work on the following day, but if
they did they heard the same voice telling them to leave
The men looked at one another, put their spades on
their shoulders, and went back to Dingle.
On the third morning the chief knight put all the men
to work in the same place, and stood watching them.
The voice came through the earth and spoke to the
knight, saying that if he wished to keep a fair name, to
go away and leave the good people in peace.
30 Tales of the Fairies
"Where am I to build my castle?" asked the
" Beyond there at Rahonain," said the voice.
Work was begun at Rahonain, and as no place
was provided for the workmen they went to people's
houses in spite of them. If the man of a house
wouldn't give what they wanted they would kill his
cow or his pig, if he'd have the like, or they'd be vexing
him in some way. If he had neither cow nor pig they'd
give him a blow in the face, so the first other time he'd
have something good for them.
Trant lived in Cahir a Trant at that time, and his
nurse lived in Kil Vicadowny. The knight's men came
across Trant's nurse, and the poor woman couldn't do
well for them, for there was no one in the house but
herself — she hadn't in the world but one cow and one
pig. When the men were not getting what they wanted
they killed the cow on the poor woman. As soon as she
saw that she went over to Trant and told him her story.
"I can do nothing for you now," said he, "but the
next other day they come send me word."
Some evenings after they came and she sent word.
Trant came quickly. The men were inside, laughing and
joking, making sport of the old woman.
" Were you not here a night before with my nurse ? "
asked Trant. " Why did you not conduct yourselves like
men — take what she could give, and not kill her little
The Knights of Kerry 31
"We killed the cow," said one of them, "and 'tis the
pig we'll take on her this turn."
Trant did nothing then but close the door and face the
men. He took the ears off each one of them. He went
out after that and took the tail and ears off each horse
and let them all loose.
The men and the horses went home to the knight, who
was raging when he saw them.
There was only a small chapel at Ventry, in the
The knights were so proud they must enter the chapel
before others. Common people had to wait outside till
the knights went in, and when mass was over the people
had to go first. The knights were the first to go in and
the last to come out, and they stood always near the
The Sunday after he cut the ears off the men, Trant
went to mass on horseback and the wife behind him on a
pillion. When he was riding along the strand and not far
from the graveyard the horse stumbled and knocked
himself and the wife.
" Come away home now," said the wife, " something
" I will not," said Trant, " and I don't care for the
horse or what will happen."
After mass Trant was outside the chapel, the knights
came out, caught him and killed him in the grave-
32 Tales of the Fairies
Trant's wife was at home ; she turned back after the
horse fell, but when she heard that her husband was dead
in the churchyard she came to him, crying, and left her
little son, nine months old, to another woman to nurse.
While Trant's wife was keening over her husband the
nurse hadn't patience to stay in the house, but ran out
to the strand and left the child in a cradle alone. A
banshee came then and took the child to a fairy fort half
a mile beyond the church. When the nurse hurried back
from the strand she found no sign of the child and was
terrified. She searched through the whole house and
around it, and as she didn't find the child anywhere she
went running towards Kil Vicadowny to know did Trant's
nurse take the little boy, but while she was going a voice
called to her :
" Stop awhile and don't face that way : I'll tell you
where the child is. It is not where you are going that he
is, but in the fairy fort. If you do what I tell you and
hurry you'll have him back ; if not you'll lose him for ever.
Run to that fort there beyond the graveyard, stop at the
first house on the way, you'll find a skein of black flax
thread inside in the house ; put it around your left hand.
You'll find a black-handled knife in the dresser, take that
in your right hand and run ; when you come to the fairy
fort tie the end of the skein to a briar in the door of the
fort ; let the thread be unwinding from you till you are
inside in the fairy kitchen. The child is there with a
brown-haired woman, and she rocking him in a cradle.
The Knights of Kerry 33
He has drunk twice of enchanted breast milk, and if
he has the third drink you will never bring him home
The nurse did all this, and did it quickly. She went
into the house without saying a word. She caught the
skein of flax thread and took the black-handled knife with
her. She faced the fairy fort, tied the end of the skein
to a briar, and let it unwind as she went till she came to
the place where the woman was rocking the child in a
cradle of gold. She raised the child and put the skein
" A short life to the woman who gave you directions,"
said the brown-haired woman.
" I'll cross her," said the nurse, " and your curse will
not fall on her."
When she was taking the child from the cradle the
brown-haired woman gave him one blow on the cheek
and said : " Take that and may it live long with you ! "
After that blow some of the Trants used always to go out
of their minds. The child was brought home and grew
up in good health. His grandfather was alive, but blind.
When the boy was fifteen years of age the grandfather
had three yearling stallions, and he told his men to put
the best of the three in a stable for seven years and not
to let him out for one moment.
At the end of seven years the grandfather sent for
young Trant to come till he'd feel his bones to know
were they hard enough.
34 Tales of the Fairies
"Mount the horse now," said the old man, when he
had passed his hands over the grandson.
The horse was brought, and the young man mounted.
"Give him his head," said the grandfather, "but not
too much of it when he's going towards the sea or the
Young Trant took his course back to Kil Vicadowny,
and around the foot of Mount Eagle ; from that he rode
to Rahonain Mountain. He held on through high places,
went far to the east, where he turned at last, and was
making for home by the way of Ballymore.
One part of the cliff west of Ballymore goes farther
toward the north than the rest of it. He was trying to
turn the horse with the ridge, but he could not, so he
gave him rein, and he jumped from the cliff, a distance
of 220 feet, and the place is known as Trant's Leap to
The grandfather had a watch out to know when the
young man would be coming, and the stable doors were
barred ; he was in dread the horse would rush into the
stable and kill the grandson. When the horse was home
he ran to the stable, but the door to his own part was
closed. He went from door to door then, but when all
doors were closed he came back to his own place and
The grandfather was led up, and put his hands on
the young man to know in what way was he after the
The Knights of Kerry 35
" Oh, you are able now," said he, " to knock satisfac-
tion out of the knights for the death of your father.
Come with me to the chapel next Sunday. When all the
poor people go out I will stand in the door and you will
work away inside on the knights with what strength there
is in you.' 7
When all the people were out on the following Sunday
young Trant put his grandfather in the door and told him
for God's sake to hold it. He went in and worked with
his sword till he stretched sixty knights, all that were in
it that day but one, who forced his way out between the
legs of the old man and killed him.
Young Trant brought the grandfather home on his
back, and that day was the last for the Knights of Dingle.
The one knight who escaped through the door died of
fright at the first place where he stopped, the place where
the chief knight began to build the castle, and from that
day the place is called Downall's Bed after him.
( 36 )
THE CATTLE JOBBER OF AWNAS-
"Do the fairies ever do harm for the pleasure of
hurting people ? " asked I of Maurice Fitzgerald.
"Whether they harm single men without reason I
can't say," replied he, " but they injure a whole country
" Oh, they do," said Duvane.
" I remember a story in which they punish a single
man and destroy all the crops along the road they are
travelling, and here it is for you."
There was a cattle jobber once who was going to a
fair near Awnascawil, and he met the good people
[fairies] about nightfall on the way. They took him
with them and turned from the road into a lonely field
in which was a large fairy fort. When they went in he
saw a house as grand as any he had ever put foot in.
The company ate and drank enough, and the good
people pressed him to sit at the table, but he would
taste neither food nor drink.
Next morning after breakfast they went out, leaving
no one behind but their piper, whose name was Tim.
The Cattle Jobber of Awnascawil 37
" You are not to let that man out of this while we are
gone," said they to the piper.
The jobber noticed that when they were going, every
one of the fairies dipped his finger in a box that hung
by the door and rubbed his eyes. When the jobber
thought that they were off a good distance he said to
himself : " I'm man enough for this piper." With that
he began to lace his shoes and prepare for his journey.
" What are you doing ? " asked the piper.
" I'm going to be off out o' this," said the jobber.
" I think it long enough that I'm here."
"You'll not leave this while I am in it," said the
piper. "You heard the order to keep you here till they
" Indeed then you'll not keep me, and I won't stay
With that he rose, and no sooner was he on his feet
than the piper caught him and they went at each other.
In the wrestling the jobber knocked Tim across a tub
that was standing on the floor and broke his back. The
piper didn't stir after that : how could he and his back
broken. With that the jobber sprang to the door, put
his finger in the box and rubbed one eye with the finger
in the same way that he saw the fairies doing, and when
his eye was rubbed he could see all the fairies in the
world with that eye if they were before him, and not a
one could he see with the other eye. He set forward
then, spent one night on the road, and as the fair was
38 Tales of the Fairies
to be held on the following day he stopped in a house
not far from the fair ground. The day was close and
warm and the jobber was thirsty, so he asked for a
drink of water.
" You'll get it and welcome," said the woman of the
house, " and it isn't water I'd give you to drink, but
milk, if I could go for it, but I can't leave the cradle
as something is the matter with the child since yester-
day ; neither I nor my husband slept a wink last night
from taking care of him, and he screeching always."
" Well," said the jobber, " I'll take care of the cradle
while you are after the milk, and sure the child will not
die during that time."
The woman went for the milk, and the jobber rocked
the cradle. He noticed that the screeching was differ-
ent from the crying of a child, and caught hold of the
blanket to take it from the child's face ; but, if he did,
the child had a firm grip of the clothes, and the jobber
had to tear away the blanket. When he had the blanket
away he saw what was in the cradle, and what was it,
sure enough, but Tim the Piper. The man and his wife
were young people, and the child was their firstborn.
" What brought you here, you scoundrel ? " asked the
"Oh, when you broke my back," said Tim. "I
could do nothing for the good people; they had no
further use for me in the fort, so they put me here and
took the child of the house with them."
The Cattle Jobber of Awnascawil 39,
"If you are here itself, why can't you hold your
tongue and not be destroying the people with your
screeching ? Sure this is a good place you are in."
"Oh," said the piper, "I wouldn't cry, but for the
rocking ; it's the rocking that's killing me. It was you
that broke my back, and don't expose me now.''
"Ill expose you this minute," said the jobber,
" unless you stop quiet."
" I'll stop quiet," said the piper.
When the woman came back the child was not crying.
"What did you do to quiet him? " asked she.
" I only uncovered his face, and said that I'd kill him
if he didn't stop quiet, and I suppose the child is in
dread, as I am a stranger."
" You might as well stay the night with us," said the
The jobber agreed, and as the child was quiet the
mother could look to her work. When her husband
came home in the evening she told him that the child
had stopped crying since the stranger came, and the
husband was glad.
" As the child is peaceable " said the jobber to the
mother, " I'll take care of him to-night ; you can go to
The parents went to bed and left the child with
their guest. About midnight the man saw that he
was growing sleepy, and he pushed Tim and asked,
" Couldn't you play a tune that would keep me awake ? "
40 Tales of the Fairies
" It would be hard for me to play and my back
broken," said Tim, " but if I had the pipes and you'd
prop me in the cradle I might play."
" Where are the pipes ? "
" My pipes were brought here," said Tim ; " they are
on the corner of the loft above the fireplace."
The jobber rose up, took the pipes, and fitted them
together. The piper began to play, and his music was
so sweet that it could raise the dead out of the grave.
He was not long playing when the father and mother
heard the music, and they had never heard the like of it.
" Who is the piper ? " asked the man.
" I am," said the jobber; "when I am on the road I
play often to amuse myself."
Tim threw away the pipes then, stretched back, and
stepped quiet till morning. The father and mother
were glad that their child was resting. After breakfast
the jobber asked the mother had they good turf, and
she fcaid they had. " Bring in two or three creels of it,"
She brought the turf, and he put it down on the fire.
When the fire was blazing well the mother was outside.
Said the jobber to Tim : " You were a bad host when I
met you last, and you'll not be here any longer; I'll
burn you now."
He went to the door then to call the mother. He
wanted her to see what would happen, and not finding
her he came back to the cradle, but found nothing in it
The Cattle Jobber of Awnascawil 41
except the clothes. Then he got terribly afraid that he
would be brought to account for the child.
The mother came in and asked : " Where is my
He told her everything. He and the woman went to
the door to search for the piper, and what should the
woman see outside the door but her own child. She
was very glad then. The jobber gave her good-bye and
started for the fair. On the way he felt a great storm
of wind and hail coming towards him, and stooped down
for shelter under a bush at the side of a ditch. When
the storm was passing he saw that it was a legion of
fairies destroying everything before them, tearing up
potato stalks and all that stood in their way.
" Oh, shame ! " cried the jobber, " to be ruining poor
A slender, foxy, red-haired man, a fairy, turned towards
him, and, putting his finger into the jobber's eye, took
the sight from him. Never again did he see a fairy.
When the foxy fairy went back to the host he asked :
" Did ye see that man who was with us in the fort,
the man who broke the back of Tim the Piper, and did
ye hear what he said ? "
"We did not."
"Well, I saw him and heard him. I took the sight
from him ; he'll never see one of us again. '
The jobber went to the fair, though he had but the
( +2 )
THE MIDWIFE OF LISTOWEL
" Why do you call the fairies ' good people ? ' "
" I don't call them the good people myself," answered
Duvane, " but that is what the man called them who told
me the story. Some call them the good people to avoid
vexing them. I think they are called the good people
mostly by pious men and women, who say that they are
some of the fallen angels."
"How is that?"
" They tell us that when the Lord cast down the rebel
angels the chief of them all and the ringleaders went
to the place of eternal punishment, but that the Lord
stopped His hand while a great many were on the way.
Wherever they were when He stopped His hand there
they are to this day. Some of these angels are under
the earth; others are on the earth, and still others in the
air. People say that they are among us at all times,
that they know everything that is going on, that they
have great hope of being forgiven at the day of judg-
ment by the Lord and restored to heaven, and that if
they hadn't that hope they would destroy this world and
all that's in it."
At this juncture the mason called out :
The Midwife of Listowel 43
" I will not say whether I think the fairies are fallen
angels or who they are, but I remember a case in which
a woman lost an eye through the fairies."
" If you do," said I, " I hope you will tell it."
" I will indeed," said he.
There was an old woman, a midwife, who lived in a
little house by herself between this and Listowel. One
evening there was a knock at the door ; she opened it,
and what should she see but a man who said she was
wanted, and to go with him quickly. He begged her to
hurry. She made herself ready at once, the man waiting
outside. AVhen she was ready the man sprang on a fine,
large horse, and put her up behind him. Away raced the
horse then. They went a great distance in such a short
time that it seemed to her only two or three miles. They
came to a splendid large house and went in. The old
woman found a beautiful lady inside. No other woman
was to be seen. A child was born soon, and the man
brought a vial of ointment, told the old woman to rub it
on the child, but to have a great care and not touch her
own self with it. She obeyed him and had no intention
of touching herself, but on a sudden her left eye itched.
She raised her hand, and rubbed the eye with one finger.
Some of the ointment was on her finger, and that instant
she saw great crowds of people around her, men and
women. She knew that she was in a fort among fairies,
and was frightened, but had courage enough not to show
44 Tales of the Fairies
it, and finished her work. The man came to her then,
and said :
" I will take you home now." He opened the door,
went out, sprang to the saddle, and reached his hand to
her, but her eye was opened now and she saw that in
place of a horse it was an old plough beam that was
before her. She was more in dread then than ever, but
took her seat, and away went the plough beam as swiftly
as the very best horse in the kingdom. The man left
her down at her own door, and she saw no more of him.
Some time after there was a great fair at Listowel. The
old midwife went to the fair, and there were big crowds
of people on every side of her. The old woman looked
around for a while and what did she see but the man
who had taken her away on a plough beam. He was
hurrying around, going in and out among the people,
and no one knowing he was in it but the old woman.
At last the finest young girl at the fair screamed and fell
in a faint — the fairy had thrust something into her side.
A crowd gathered around the young girl. The old
woman, who had seen all, made her way to the girl,
examined her side, and drew a pin from it. The girl
A little later the fairy made his way to the old woman.
" Have you ever seen me before ? " asked he.
" Oh, maybe I have," said she.
" Do you remember that I took you to a fort to attend
a young woman ? "
Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts 45
"When you anointed the child did you touch any
part of yourself with the ointment I gave you ? "
"I did without knowing it; my eye itched and I
rubbed it with my finger."
" The left."
The moment she said that he struck her left eye and
took the sight from it. She went home blind of one eye,
and was that way the rest of her life.
DANIEL CROWLEY AND THE GHOSTS
On the third evening the mason was absent, but his
place was filled by a young farmer of the neighbour-
hood, named Garvey, who knew two ghost stories. The
host was anxious that I should hear them, hence he
brought in the farmer. After some hesitation and pro-
tests the young man told a story, which is grotesque
enough and borders very closely, if it does not touch, on
the unpermitted. It has some points of resemblance with
the "Ghostly Concert " in "Tales of Three Centuries,"
which I translated from the Russian of Zagoskin. In
Zagoskin's tale the demon leader of the ghostly orches-
tra in Moscow makes a guitar of the right leg of his
46 Tales of the Fairies
victim, the only living man present at the midnight
rehearsal. In this Irish tale the ghost makes an instru-
ment out of his own body — plays on his ribs. There is
a splendid tale among the Western Indians of North
America describing a trial of skill in a musical contest
between all existences in the universe except man. The
first place was won by the lamprey eel (one of the forms
of water as a person), and the eel was declared to be the
greatest musician in the world. The lamprey eel in the
contest, uses his own body as a flute, played by inhaling
air and then expelling it through his sides. Of those
holes there are marks left on the body of the lamprey
eel. Some Indians call water the Long One : and water
is certainly a mighty musician.
There lived a man in Cork whose name was Daniel
Crowley. He was a coffin-maker by trade, and had a
deal of coffins laid by, so that his apprentice might sell
them when himself was not at home.
A messenger came to Daniel Crowley's shop one day
and told him that there was a man dead at the end of
the town, and to send up a coffin for him, or to make
Daniel Crowley took down a coffin, put it on a donkey
cart, drove to the wake house, went in and told the
people of the house that the coffin was there for them.
The corpse was laid out on a table in a room next to the
kitchen Five or six women were keeping watch around
Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts 47
it ; many people were in the kitchen. Daniel Crowley
was asked to sit down and commence to shorten the
night : that is, to tell stories, amuse himself and others.
A tumbler of punch was brought, and he promised to do
the best he could.
He began to tell stories and shorten the night. A
second glass of punch was brought to him, and he went
on telling tales. There was a man at the wake who sang
a song : after him another was found, and then another.
Then the people asked Daniel Crowley to sing, and he
did. The song that he sang was of another nation.
He sang about the good people, the fairies. The song
pleased the company, they desired him to sing again, and
he did not refuse.
Daniel Crowley pleased the company so much with
his two songs that a woman who had three daughters
wanted to make a match for one of them, and get
Daniel Crowley as a husband for her. Crowley was a
bachelor, well on in years, and had never thought of
The mother spoke of the match to a woman sitting
next to her. The woman shook her head, but the
mother said :
"If he takes one of my daughters 111 be glad, for he
has money laid by. Do you go and speak to him, but
say nothing of me at first."
The woman went to Daniel Crowley then, and told
him that she had a fine, beautiful girl in view, and that
48 Tales of the Fairies
now was his time to get a good wife ; he'd never have
such a chance again.
Crowley rose up in great anger. "There isn't a
woman wearing clothes that I'd marry," said he. " There
isn't a woman born that could bring me to make two
halves of my loaf for her."
The mother was insulted now and forgot herself. She
began to abuse Crowley.
"Bad luck to you, you hairy little scoundrel," said
she, "you might be a grandfather to my child. You
are not fit to clean the shoes on her feet. You have
only dead people for company day and night; 'tis by
them you make your living."
"Oh, then," said Daniel Crowley, "I'd prefer the
dead to the living any day if all the living were like you.
Besides, I have nothing against the dead. I am getting
employment by them and not by the living, for 'tis the
dead that want coffins."
" Bad luck to you, 'tis with the dead you ought to be
and not with the living ; 'twould be fitter for you to go
out of this altogether and go to your dead people."
" I'd go if I knew how to go to them," said Crowley.
"Why not invite them to supper?" retorted the
He rose up then^ went out, and called :
" Men, women, children, soldiers, sailors, all people that
I have ever made coffins for, I invite you to-night to my
house, and I'll spend what is needed in giving a feast."
Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts 49
The people who were watching the dead man on the
table saw him smile when he heard the invitation. They
ran out of the room in a fright and out of the kitchen,
and Daniel Crowley hurried away to his shop as fast as
ever his donkey could carry him. On the way he came
to a public-house and, going in, bought a pint bottle of
whiskey, put it in his pocket, and drove on.
The workshop was locked and the shutters down when
he left that evening but when he came near he saw that
all the windows were shining with light, and he was in
dread that the building was burning or that robbers were
in it. When right there Crowley slipped into a corner
of the building opposite, to know could he see what was
happening, and soon he saw crowds of men, women, and
children walking toward his shop and going in, but none
coming out. He was hiding some time when a man
tapped him on the shoulder and asked, " Is it here you
are, and we waiting for you? Tis a shame to treat
company this way. Come now."
Crowley went with the man to the shop, and as he
passed the threshold he saw a great gathering of people.
Some were neighbours, people he had known in the
past. All were dancing, singing, amusing themselves.
He was not long looking on when a man came up to
him and said :
" You seem not to know me, Daniel Crowley."
" I don't know you," said Crowley. " How could I ? "
" You might then, and you ought to know me, for I
50 Tales of the Fairies
am the first man you made a coffin for, and 'twas I gave
you the first start in business."
Soon another came up, a lame man : " Do you know
me, Daniel Crowley ? "
" I do not."
"lam your cousin, and it isn't long since I died."
" Oh, now I know you well, for you are lame. In
God's name," said Crowley to the cousin, " how am I to
get these people out o' this. What time is it ? "
" Tis early yet, it's hardly eleven o'clock, man."
Crowley wondered that it was so early.
" Receive them kindly," said the cousin ; " be good to
them, make merriment as you can."
" I have no money with me to get food or drink for
them ; 'tis night now, and all places are closed," answered
" Well, do the best you can," said the cousin.
The fun and dancing went on, and while Daniel
Crowley was looking around, examining everything, he
saw a woman in the far-off corner. She took no part in
the amusement, but seemed very shy in herself.
"Why is that woman so shy— she seems to be
afraid ? " asked he of the cousin. " And why doesn't she
dance and make merry like others? "
" Oh, 'tis not long since she died, and you gave, the
coffin, as she had no means of paying for it. She is in
dread you'll ask her for the money, or let the company
know that she didn't pay," said the cousin.
Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts 51
The best dancer they had was a piper by the name of
John Reardon from the city of Cork. The fiddler was
one John Healy. Healy brought no fiddle with him,
but he made one, and the way he made it was to take
off what flesh he had on his body. He rubbed up and
down on his own ribs, each rib having a different note*
and he made the loveliest music that Daniel Crowley had
ever heard. After that the whole company followed his
example. All threw off what flesh they had on them and
began to dance jigs and hornpipes in their bare bones.
When by chance they struck against one another in
dancing, you'd think it was Brandon Mountain that was
striking Mount Eagle, with the noise that was in it.
Daniel Crowley plucked up all his courage to know,
could he live through the night, but still he thought day-
light would never come. There was one man, John
Sullivan, that he noticed especially. This man had
married twice in his life, and with him came the two
women. Crowley saw him taking out the second wife
to dance a breakdown, and the two danced so well
that the company were delighted, and all the skeletons
had their mouths open, laughing. He danced and
knocked so much merriment out of them all that his
first wife, who was at the end of the house, became
jealous and very mad altogether. She ran down to
where he was and told him she had a better right
to dance with him than the second wife.
" That's not the truth for you," said the second wife -;
52 Tales of the Fairies
"I have a better right than you. When he married me
you were a dead woman and he was free, and, besides,
I'm a better dancer than what you are, and I will dance
with him whether you like it or not."
"Hold your tongue!" screamed the first wife.
" Sure, you couldn't come to this feast to-night at all
but for the loan of another woman's shinbones."
Sullivan looked at his two wives, and asked the
second one :
" Isn't it your own shinbones you have ? "
" No, they are borrowed. I borrowed a neighbouring
woman's shins from her, and 'tis those I have with me
" Who is the owner of the shinbones you have under
you ? " asked the husband.
" They belong to one Catherine Murray. She hadn't
a very good name in life."
" But why didn't you come on your own feet ? "
"Oh, I wasn't good myself in life, and I was put
under a penalty, and the penalty is that whenever there
is a feast or a ball I cannot go to it unless I am able to
borrow a pair of shins."
Sullivan was raging when he found that the shinbones
he had been dancing with belonged to a third woman,
and she not the best, and he gave a slap to the wife that
sent her spinning into a corner.
The woman had relations among the skeletons present,
and they were angry when they saw the man strike their
Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts 53
friend. " Well never let that go with him," said they.
" We must knock satisfaction out of Sullivan ! "
The woman's friends rose up, and, as there were no
clubs or weapons, they pulled off their left arms and
began to slash and strike with them in terrible fashion.
There was an awful battle in one minute.
While this was going on Daniel Crowley was standing
below at the end of the room, cold and hungry, not
knowing but he'd be killed. As Sullivan was trying to
dodge the blows sent against him he got as far as Daniel
Crowley, and stepped on his toe without knowing it;
Crowley got vexed and gave Sullivan a blow with his
fist that drove the head from him, and sent it flying to
the opposite corner.
When Sullivan saw his head flying off from the blow
he ran, and, catching it, aimed a blow at Daniel Crowley
with the head, and aimed so truly that he knocked
him under the bench ; then, having him at a disadvantage,
Sullivan hurried to the bench and began to strangle him.
He squeezed his throat and held him so firmly between
the bench and the floor that the man lost his senses,
and couldn't remember a thing more.
When Daniel Crowley came to himself in the morning
his apprentice found him stretched under the bench
with an empty bottle under his arm. He was bruised
and pounded. His throat was sore where Sullivan had
squeezed it; he didn't know how the company broke
up, nor when his guests went away.
( 54 )
TOM DALY AND THE NUT-EATING
The value of the next story (which was told by the
blind man), apart from the comic in its form and con-
tents, is the fact that nuts are buried for the godfather to
eat after death. This is an interesting survival of primitive
Tom Daly lived between Kenmare and Skneem, but
nearer to Kenmare, and had an only son, who was
called Tom, after the father. When the son was eighteen
years old Tom Daly died, leaving a widow and this
son. The wife was paralysed two years before Tom's
death, and could rise out of the bed only as she was
taken out, but as the fire was near the bed she could
push a piece of turf into it if the turf was left at hand.
Tom Daly while alive was in the employ of a gentle-
man living at Drummond Castle. Young Tom got the
father's place, and he looked on his godfather as he
would on his own father, for the father and godfather
had been great friends always, and Tom's mother was as
fond of the godfather as she was of her own husband.
Four years after old Tom died the godfather followed
him. He was very fond of chestnuts, and when he
Tom Daly and the Nut-eating Ghost 55
came to die he asked his friends to put a big wooden
dish of them in his coffin, so he might come at the nuts
in the next world.
They carried out the man's wishes. The godfather
was buried, and the bed-ridden widow mourned for him
as much as for her own husband. The yoang man
continued to work for the gentleman at Drummond
Castle, and in the winter it was often late in the evening
before he could come home. There was a short cut
from the gentleman's place through a grove and past
the graveyard. Young Tom was going home one winter
night, the moon was shining very brightly. While pass-
ing the graveyard he saw a man on a big tomb that was
in it, and he cracking nuts. Young Daly saw that it
was on his godfather's tomb the man was, and when
he remembered the nuts that were buried with him he
believed in one minute that it was the godfather who
was before him. He was greatly in dread then, and ran
off as fast as ever his legs could carry him. When he
reached home he was out of breath and panting.
"What is on you," asked the mother, "and to be
choking for breath ? "
" Sure I saw my godfather sitting on the tomb and
he eating the nuts that were buried with him."
" Bad luck to you," said the mother ; " don't be bely-
ing the dead, for it is as great a sin to tell one lie on the
dead as ten on the living."
" God knows," said Tom, " that I'd not belie my god-
56 Tales of the Fairies
father, and 'tis he that is in it; and hadn't I enough
time to know him before he died ? "
"Do you say in truth, Tom, that 'tis your god-
" As sure as you are my mother there before me ? tis
my godfather that's in the graveyard cracking nuts."
" Bring me to him, for the mercy of God, till I ask
him about your own father in the other world."
" I'll not do that," said Tom. " What a queer thing
it would be to bring you to the dead."
" Isn't it better to go, Tom dear, and speak to him ?
Ask about your father, and know is he suffering in the
other world. If he is we can relieve him with masses
for his soul."
Tom agreed at last, and, as the mother was a cripple,
all he could do was to put a sheet around her and
take her on his back. He went then towards the grave-
There was a great thief living not far from Kenmare,
and he came that night towards the estate of the gentle-
man where Tom was working. The gentleman had a
couple of hundred fat sheep that were grazing. The
thief made up his mind to have one of the sheep, and
he sent an apprentice boy that he had to catch one, and
said that he'd keep watch on the top of the tomb. As
he had some nuts in his pockets, the thief began to
crack them. The boy went for the sheep, but before he
came back the thief saw Tom Daly, with his mother on
Tom Connors and the Dead Girl 57
his back. Thinking that it was his apprentice with the
sheep, he called out, " Is she fat ? "
Tom Daly, thinking it was the ghost asking about the
mother, dropped her and said, "Begor, then, she is,
and heavy ! " Away with him, then, as fast as ever his two
legs could carry him, leaving the mother behind. She,
forgetting her husband and thinking the ghost would kill
and eat her, jumped up, ran home like a deer, and was
there as soon as her son.
" God spare you, mother, how could you come ! " cried
Tom, "and be here as soon as myself?"
"Sure I moved like a blast of March wind," said the
old woman; "'tis the luckiest ride I had in my life, for
out of the fright the good Lord gave me my legs again."
TOM CONNORS AND THE DEAD
" That is a droll story, and may be true," said John
Malone, "though it doesn't stand to reason that the
mother could run as fast as her son, and he as much in
dread of the man in the graveyard as herself. But, true
or false, sure there is neither ghost nor fairy in it."
"There is not," said Maurice Fitzgerald; " and now I'll
58 Tales of the Fairies
give you, not a story, but an account of what happened
to a man named Tom Connors, who lived beyond
Dingle, and there's a ghost in it. Connors told me all
himself, and it's only a year since he died."
In the year 1846 Tom Connors was working on the
road between Slea Head and Ventry with other men.
One morning he asked a fellow-workman for tobacco.
" I have only enough to last through the day," said
the other, "but here are threepence for you, and at
breakfast-time take your bread and walk up the road
and you'll find an old woman selling tobacco. When
you are paid next time give back the threepence
" Very well," said Connors ; and when it was breakfast-
time he took his bread and went along the road, eating,
till he came to where the old woman was, and bought
Before the next pay-day the man who loaned the
threepence fell ill. Connors carried the money in his
pocket a long time, hearing each day that the man was
getting better, and expecting that he would see him the
next day. One morning Connors was going to his work
and had reached the bridge this side of Rahin. Just
beyond that he saw the man who loaned him the money,
and he coming toward him. The man was so near that
Connors put his hand in his vest pocket and took out
the threepence to pay him, but just then the man sprang
Tom Connors and the Dead Girl 59
on a ditch at right angles with the road and walked
along on it over a bog.
Connors started to call to him, but stopped, watched,
and saw the man jump from the ditch and cross a field ;
then he went behind a small mound, and that was the
last of him. Connors walked on a short distance and
met two men going to work. He saluted them, and
asked what news had they. So and so died, said they,
just before we left the house. This was the man who
loaned Connors the threepence and had just crossed the
bog. Connors said nothing to the two men about seeing
him, at the time ; but the eyes were leaving his head, he
was in such amazement. Later, he gave the threepence
to some poor persons and told them to pray for the man*
Fifty years ago it was a common thing to have dances
wherever a fiddler happened to stop, and in those days
strolling fiddlers were seen often. When Tom Connors,
the man I mentioned, was young and unmarried, he
found one evening that all the young people had gone
away to dance ; so he went on alone to Rahonain, for
he thought it was there the dance was, but when he came
to the place he was told that it was in the next village.
Connors started off towards the village without waiting.
The place was lonely, and he had gone only a short
distance past a forge by the wayside when he saw a
woman following him. Thinking that she was some girl
going to the dance, and that he could chat with her, he
waited till she was near ; he saw then that she was a girl
60 Tales of the Fairies
who died some time before. He had danced with, her
often while she was in this world. He turned into a
field to go by a short cut to the village ; she followed.
He said nothing, but hurried as much as he could ; she
was always close behind, without saying a word, she
was waiting for Connors to speak to her. When he
reached the house where the dance was, young men and
women were standing outside. The dead girl was right
there behind him ; he was terribly frightened, pressed in
between the people and the house, and stood with his
back to the wall. She went around and passed between
the people and Connors — passed so near him that her
clothes brushed his breast and her eyes looked into his
eyes. Still he didn't speak to her. Then she went away
across the field and disappeared.
THE FARMER OF TRALEE AND
THE FAIRY COWS
Before any comment was made on Connors' experience
of ghosts, Maurice Lynch, the mason, came in. My host
asked him at once to tell a story, and the following
is his contribution :
There was a rich farmer near Tralee, and he had a
The Farmer and the Fairy Cows 6i
strong, able man of a son who was a herder for him,
driving the cows and taking care of them always.
One evening the son was driving the cows to the field
where they were to stop for the night. There was a fairy
fort in the field. When the young man was driving the
cows in at the gate of this field the first cow stretched
her head through the gate, bawled as if some cow
were horning her, and ran away. A cow with three dogs
after her wouldn't be wilder than this one. ' He tried till
he was tired to drive the other cows, and couldn't drive
one of them into the field. He went home then and
said he couldn't get a cow through the gate.
The farmer had three servant boys ; they were inside
in the house after the day, and he told them to go and
help, but not a cow could they drive in, and they were
in amaze, without knowing what was on the cows, and
why they wouldn't go into the field as every evening
before that. The farmer's son was with the boys, and
when the four were tired, he said :
" There must be something before them." He went
inside then and looked about the place, and what did he
see standing aside from the gate but a little old man.
He cursed the old man, raised his hand with a stick in
it, and swore that he'd have his life.
" Stop your hand," said the fairy, " and don't try the
like of that."
" I'll not stop my hand," said the young man, " for
you have my stock destroyed."
62 Tales of the Fairies *
"Wait," said the fairy, " and I'll tell you the cause of
this trouble. I am very badly off from the want of a
wife and a housekeeper, and what I wished was that
yourself would come here till I spoke to you. I
have the woman made out these four or five days, and
we were to go for her to-night, and I want you to go
with us. We have strength enough of our own men, but
we can never take her without help from this world.
You'll not lose by assisting me. I'll be your friend ever
and always for the future."
"Well," said the farmer, " I'll help you."
"That's all I want," said the fairy, "and I'll not
trouble your cows from this out. Be at the fort in half
an hour and go with me."
The farmer's son was at the fairy fort at the time
mentioned. The old man and a crowd of other fairies
were waiting on horseback, and a horse was reserved
for the young man. They started off and never stopped
nor drew bridle till they reached the North of Ireland
and halted at the house of a rich man, who had a very
beautiful daughter. The fairies had her struck four or
five days before ; she was stretched on the bed and was
to die that same night. She was given up by priest and
fairies brought one of their own to put in place of
" You have no cause to be in dread of anything," said
the old man to the farmer's son. " The house is full of
our friends and neighbours; all you need to do is to take
• The Farmer and the Fairy Cows 63
her with you out of the house and put her before you on
He did this, and soon they were back at the fort, and
the old man said, " Put the lady off the horse and give
her to me."
The farmer's son was grieved to think that such a fine
young woman would be for ever with such an old fairy,
and he said, " I'll not let her go with you ; I want her
He kept the woman from the fairy, and brought her
with him to his father's house.
The old fairy began then at the father, who had more
than forty cows and property of all kinds, and never
stopped till he left him nothing but the walls of his house,
and made beggars of the family. The young man and
his wife were as poor as they could be, and one day the
woman said to her husband, " If my father and mother
knew our trouble we wouldn't be long the way we are, in
poverty and want, and I'm sure it's the fairy that's working
on us always."
"I'd wish to see them," said the husband, "and if
I knew the place they are living in I'd try could I find
them. Write a letter ; I'll take it to them."
She wrote and mentioned many things that only she
and her family knew. The husband started off ; he had
the name of the place, and was travelling always till he
came to the right house at last. A fine house it was.
There were herds of cows, and servants to milk them.
64 Tales of the Fairies
The mother was down in her room when he came, and
he saw her at once. The woman was crying. He asked
her the cause.
"It seems," said she, "that you are a stranger in
" I am," said he.
" My" only daughter is dead," said the woman, " and I
am still grieving. Her father took to his bed after he
buried her, and hasn't risen out of it since."
" Your daughter is alive yet ; she didn't die at all."
"You'll suffer for that talk," said the mother;
He handed her the letter. She opened it and read.
"That is her writing whether she is dead or alive," said
the mother. She went to her husband then. " There
is a man below in the room," said she, " who says that
our daughter is living."
" Call him here to me. I'll put him in the way he
won't say that again."
The wife showed the letter and said, " She wrote it ;
I know the hand."
They sent for the priest. " Don't harm the man," said
the priest. "I'll write to the parish priest there and
know the true story."
The parents had three sons besides the daughter they
had lost, and these three brothers thought it long to
wait. What they did was to saddle three horses and
away with them, and never did they stop day or night,
travelling and- getting tidings. They kept in the right
The Farmer and the Fairy Cows 65
road till they made out the house. The sister put
out her head when they were coming and knew her
brothers. When she saw them she came very near
The sister told all about the fairy, and said, " Hurry
away and bring my husband ; don't leave it in the legs
of the horses."
They turned, and never fear they didn't leave it in the
horses, but took out of them what speed was in their
bones. When they were within sight of their father's
house they had handkerchiefs flying, they were so glad,
and the people were running from every side to meet
them. They made a great feast for the brother-in-la^
then, and asked him what stock had he lost by the
" Forty-five cows and two horses," said he.
The three brothers took sixty men with themselves
and started for the fairy fort. The husband showed
them where it was. They swore that if the old fairy
were twenty fathoms deep they would have him out.
They dug quickly, and not long were they working when
they met a great flat stone. They were raising the stone
with crowbars, when the fairy felt them. "Spare my
house," cried he, "and give I'll help whenever ye
" Give the man back all you took from him," said the
The fairy put back everything as it was before. The
66 Tales of the Fairies
brothers left a blessing with their sister and her husband
and went home. The fairy was a friend of the young
couple after that. He never put the father nor the son
back a pen'orth.
THE TWO GAMBLERS AND THE
At our fourth meeting, which was held two nights later,
the mason was present again, and told a story which had
the same motive as the one which he had given us before,
the stealing of a young woman made ill previously by
a fairy stroke. The fairies leave a supposititious body,
which is buried by the girl's parents, who mourn for their
daughter, " and she living " in a distant part of the king-
dom. There are endless variants on this theme; the
earliest perhaps the more interesting.
There was a gambler once, and he went to a fair which
was held near Killarney. He was at the fair a part of the
day when another gambler came the way ; the two began
to play and held on till evening. When they finished at
last there wasn't one penny gained by either of them on
the other. The first gambler asked the stranger from
The Two Gamblers and the Fairies 67
what place was he, and he said, " I am from the North
of Ireland. " He asked him then would he join him for
twelve months and they'd play in company* He con-
sented. They agreed to make two halves of their gains,
each to have one half.
The second gambler asked the first how much had he
gathered, and he told him he had one keg full of gold.
The first asked the second how much had he, and he
said he had two kegs and the half of a third.
" Have you a family ? " asked the second gambler.
" I have no one. Have you many with you ? "
" I have no one but my mother."
"Then," said the first gambler, "well hire a horse and
do you go for your gathering. We will live together.
They hired a carman ; the second gambler went with the
carman and brought the three kegs. The carman was
well paid when his work was done.
Not long after this it came in a dream to the first
gambler that a keg of gold was dry on the strand. He
called his comrade and said, " It came to me in
a dream that there is a keg of gold high and dry
on the strand." They rose up then, and taking two
strong clubs went to the strand, searched every foot of it
and met nothing. They were near the water as they were
facing for home, when all at once they saw a great crowd.
They didn't know who the people were, but it seemed
like a large funeral,
"Go to them now," said the first gambler to the second,
68 Tales of the Fairies
" and ask who they are and what brought them to this
place so late at night."
"Indeed,- then, 111 not go to them," said the second
man. " 111 be off home for myself." And with that he
left the first one alone.
The first man ran up with great speed till he came to
the crowd, and what should he see but a coffin and four
men carrying it. He gave a blow of his stick on the
coffin lid, and asked, " What is here ? " When he
struck the blow and made the inquiry, the four men
dropped the coffin, and the whole crowd vanished. In
one twinkle of an eye there wasn't a man there — just as
if the ground had swallowed them.
The man carried the coffin home on his back and took
the lid from it. What did he find inside but the most
beautiful young woman to be seen, and she asleep. He
lifted her out of the coffin. She was alive, but tongue-
tied — without a word. He said he'd give no quarter
to the other man who deserted him and ran home.
That night twelve months the first man dreamed again
that if he would go to the strand he would find a keg
of gold. " Rise up and come with me," said he to the
" I saw enough the night I was with you last year. Ill
stay where I am."
The first man went to the strand and searched, but if
he did he found nothing. At last, as he was leaving the
place, he saw a whole troop of fairies going towards
The Two Gamblers and the Fairies 69
a large fort, and he followed them. The fort seemed to
his eyes in the night the grandest castle that ever was
built. All the fairies sat down to supper, but he stood at
the side of the door and looked at the nicest things in
the world as they seemed to him. At last one of the
fairies spoke up and asked, "Did ye see the man
that carried the woman from us this time twelve
months ? "
"I did," said the chief, "and I know what he wants;
he wants the young woman able to speak, and it will be
a long time before he'll get that, though if she had three
drinks out of this horn here she would speak in some
way, but she will never speak rightly till the pin that I
stuck in the rop of her head is drawn from it. I put the
pin there the night we carried her from her father and
The horn was going the round of the fairies, and all
were drinking from it. The gambler was watching his
chance at the door. When he saw the horn near him he
reached out his hand, snatched it, and raced away. No
one followed him. He brought the horn home with him.
The woman took three drinks from it and was partly
cured ; then he drew the pin. She gave a hearty laugh,
and spoke as well as ever in her life.
The gambler was in dread of the fairies, so he took
the horn to the fort and the fairies never troubled him.
The young woman, being cured now, wished her
parents, who lived near Dublin, to know where she was.
7° Tales of the Fairies
"Write a letter/ 7 said the gambler. "I will take it,
and be walking on till I come to them.' 7
She wrote the letter. He took it and went away. He
was inquiring always, and never stopped till he came to
her father's house. All were in mourning, for she was
a rich man's only daughter. Her father was lying on
his bed when the gambler came, for he had never risen
out of it since he buried the daughter. The fairies had
put a strange body in place of her, and the father and
mother thought that it was their own daughter they had
" There is no business for you here," said the house-
" I have a letter to the master and mistress of this
house from their daughter, and I will not go till I give
it to them," said the man.
The housekeeper was going to bring servants to drive
him out of the house, when the mistress came. She took
the letter, read it, and went to her husband. " There is
a man below in the kitchen," said she, " who says that our
daughter is living, and that he has a letter from her."
The husband rose up in the bed. "Bring me the gun
till I shoot that impostor ! "
"Have patience," said the wife. "It's fitter for
you to read the letter than to kill the man who
He read the letter, and, finding it true to all ap-
pearances, sprang out of bed, went to the young
The Two Gamblers and the Fairies yi
man, and questioned him. The man told the whole
The night that he saved her from the fairies was the
same that the young woman died;
" Go home now," said the father, offering him money
for the road. " I'll give you my daughter to marry if you
bring her here to me."
" I have money enough of my own ; I don't need
yours," said the gambler, who was in dread the father
might not keep his promise if he had the daughter at
home. " Come with me and have the marriage at my
The father took a coach and four \ himself, his wife,
and the gambler rode away to find the daughter. The
daughter wasn't in the house when they came, and the
young man was in dread of his life ; he thought the
father would kill him if the daughter couldn't be found.
She was on the brink of the sea, combing her hair, at the
time. He found her at last, and when the parents saw
their daughter they were near fainting.
After finding the daughter they thought the man too
small, not good enough. He took them then to an
inside room and showed his riches ; he had a keg and a
half, and the other gambler two kegs and a half full of
" Have you as much as that ? " asked he of the
" I have not," said he, " nor the third part of it."
72 Tales of the Fairies
Still he did not give him the daughter, but started for
home, taking her with him. When they had gone some
distance the mother said, "It is not right to act this way
towards the man who saved our daughter from the
"He is the right man to be my husband, " said
the daughter. " I'd be among the fairies for ever but
" Turn back and go to him," said the father. He left
the daughter and she went back.
The gamblers divided their gold, and the second
gambler went home, carrying his part to the north of
THE GIRL AND THE ROBBER
The next story, which was told by the blind man, con-
tains an account of one important survival of old times :
offering a beast to St. Martin. The method of curing a
sick beast is also interesting.
The most solemn acts of worship in primitive times
were connected with food and drink. Eating and
drinking were, in fact, the main elements in public
worship and thanksgiving. The moral of the story is that
the young woman came to all her good fortune through
The Girl and the Robber 73
her earnest endeavour to bring the sheep as an offering to
St. Martin. When the story was finished the old man
summed up the whole matter by remarking, " It was St.
Martin did it all. 7 '
There was a farmer in the county Kerry who had a deal
of cattle and sheep. He was a very rich man. There
were four fairs in the year near his land, and one of these
was held on St. Martin's day, Nov. 9. On that day they
used to kill a sheep, heifer, or something to offer St.
Martin. That was a custom all over Ireland, and is
observed yet. When any sickness or ailment came
over an animal suddenly a piece was cut out of its ear
and melted for the sake of God and St. Martin. If the
beast recovered it was never sold, but killed at home.
The wife of the rich farmer died and left a son and
daughter after her. The man did not marry a second
time, and the son and daughter grew till they were on the
edge of being married. The brother and sister went to
the fair on St. Martin's day, and while they were gone the
father never thought once of killing something for St.
Martin, as he used to do, and his father and grandfather
It was late in the evening when the son and daughter
came from the fair, and it wasn't five minutes before they
came when the father remembered that he hadn't killed
anything to honour St. Martin.
" A thing has happened this day that never happened
74 Tales of the Fairies
before to myself, my father, or my grandfather," said he
to the son.
"What is that?" asked the son.
"I never thought of bringing any animai to kill in
honour of St. Martin."
"That you may be happy," said the son, "what a
misfortune ! "
" Never mind," said the father. " We can mend
it. I wish you would go» now and bring a wether.
Go up to the yard on the hill and bring him down
" I may not come back alive if I go," said the son,
" and as you hadn't anything to do all day, 'tis yourself
ought to think of St. Martin's and have the sheep ready."
The son wouldn't be said by the father and wouldn't
go ; then the daughter said to the brother, " I'll go with
you for the sheep." The brother swore that he wouldn't
go alone nor in company. As he wouldn't go, the sister
thought to herself, " I'll go without him." So she took a
rope to tie the sheep.
In the parlour was a nice sword they used when in
need of it ; the sword was in a scabbard hanging from
a belt. The young woman put the belt around her
waist and went towards the hill. She knew very well
where the sheep were. The place was a yard with a high
stone wall around it which no dog or wolf could cross.
Inside at one end was a little stone house where a herder
could stay. She chose the best wether she could find,
The Girl and the Robber 75
tied the rope on him, and started for home. Just as
she was going a great fog fell, and she had no knowledge
of where she was facing. She was going astray for a
long time, and at last was very tired without making her
way and sat down. "Well," said she to herself, "there
is no use for me to be wandering and turning; I
can never find the way home ; I may as well stay where
She was sitting a good part of the night in the field,
when she thought, " I may as well let the wether go his
own way and keep the rope in my hand ; he may take
me back to the sheep ; they'll keep me company for the
night." Before long the wether made out the yard again.
She sat down in the yard, and was just as if at home
with the sheep around her. " I'll make my way home
when the fog rises," thought she.
About midnight what should she hear but men talking,
and soon a good flock of sheep came into the yard
and three men behind them. Three brothers, such
robbers that they troubled the whole country, and there
was a hundred pounds reward on the head of each one
of them. The robbers were coming from the fair in dis-
guise, and wanted to take something with them on the
way. The farmer was known through the country as a
rich man, and the robbers had walked the way before.
When the girl heard the men coming she hid in the
stone hut at the end of the yard and waited. One of
the robbers was choosing the best sheep, another was
76 Tales of the Fairies
putting them with the new flock, and the third man stood
at the gate of the yard. The man taking the sheep had
a good many chosen when he saw the hut and said,
"Maybe 'tis here behind the best of the sheep are."
He stooped down and put in his head at the door. The
girl had the naked sword in her two hands. With one
blow she took the head off the robber and pulled him
into the hut. The other two called and asked what was
keeping him. When no answer came the man who was
minding the sheep put his head into the hut ; she served
him in the same way as the first one, took the head off
him. The third and youngest called to the others, but
what use for him, sure they couldn't answer. He went
to the door, and what did he find but his brother
stretched. He pulled out the body and saw that the
head was gone from it. He made off with himself then
and left the two behind. The girl was afraid to come
out, and stayed where she was till clear day. She came
out then and found two flocks of sheep, for the robber
had run away with his life. She found the wether the rope
was on and brought him home with her. The father was
crying and lamenting all night. He was sure some evil
had come to the daughter, so he welcomed her with
gladness and asked what kept her all night. She told
him how she had the two robbers killed and the yard
full of sheep. It's well pleased he was to see her safe.
Himself and the son went then to the sheep yard, drew
out the heads, and, taking the girl with them, went to
The Girl and the Robber 77
where the reward was to be given. The girl received
the two hundred pounds, which the father said must
stay with her.
After that the report went all over the country that
the young woman had done such a great deed of bravery,
and all the people, young and old, were talking of her.
About a year later, who should come the way to the
farmer's house one evening but a man on horseback,
and he dressed like any nobleman. His horse was put
in the stable, where he got good food and care. After
supper the farmer, who was wondering what could bring
such a fine young man to his house, asked him, who
was he and what brought him ?
" It is for a wife I came," said the young man.
" Oh, don't be talking," said the farmer, " my daughter
is not a fit wife for the like of you."
" If she pleases me, isn't that enough ? " asked the
young man. " I have riches enough for myself ; the two
hundred pounds she got for the heads of the robbers is
plenty for her. I want no fortune with her, I want
nothing but herself."
Before the evening was over the farmer was full satis-
fied with the man, and the match was settled. The follow-
ing morning they had the marriage and the wedding. The
husband wouldn't stop another night, but said he must go
home that very day. When the bride saw that he wouldn't
stop she looked at him closely and thought to herself,
u He may be a brother to the two men I killed." The
78 Tales of the Fairies
young man mounted his horse and put the wife behind
on a pillion. She had put the sword belt round her,
and hid the sword under her long cloak.
The two rode away, and it was no fair road the man
was travelling, but through lonely and wild places,
and he never spoke a word till the middle of the after-
noon when he stopped and said, "It's too long I'm
waiting. I have the last of my patience lost, and I'll
not give you more time. Come down from the
" What are you saying ? " asked she.
" You killed my two brothers in the sheep-yard," said
the man. " I have you now, and I don't know in this
world how will I make you suffer enough. It's not a
sudden death, but a long punishment I'll give you."
What did he tell her then but to undress till he'd strip
the flesh bit by bit from her and she alive.
She came down from the horse. " Well," said she,
" I've only one thing to ask."
" You'll get nothing from me," said the robber.
" All I wish is for you to turn your face from me while
It was the will of God that he turned his face away,
and that moment she gave one blow of her sword on his
neck and swept the head off him. She hid the head
among the rocks, where no dog or beast could come at
it. There were two hundred pounds on the head of
this man, for he was the worst of the brothers. She
The Girl and the Robber 79
didn't know at first what to do, for she didn't know the
road home. She sat on the horse and tried to turn him,
but no step would he go for her. What did she do then
but let the horse go his way, and he never stopped till
he reached the robbers' house. There was no man in
the house but a very old one, and when he heard the
clatter he rose up and saw the horse. He saluted the
farmer's daughter and asked where was his son.
He is at his father-in-law's house," said she. " He
got married this morning. He'll stop there to-night, and
be here with the wife to-morrow. Friends will come
with them to have a feast here; he sent me to tell
There was only one servant maid in the house, and
the old man told her to make everything ready.
" This is a rich house," said the old man.
" Oh, how could your riches be compared with what
your son's wife has ? "
" I'll show you a part of this place," said the old man.
He took her to a room, and gold and silver were there,
not in a chest, but in heaps. ■ ' Look at that," said he.
" There is a deal of riches," said she, " but if there was
as much more 'twould be less than the riches your son's
wife has." Before supper she asked, was it far to a
town or city ?
" Cork is eight miles from this," said the old man,
and he pointed out the road which led to the highway, a
mile from the house. After supper the old man showed
80 Tales of the Fairies
her a room and a bed. " You can sleep c in this place '
without fear," said he.
The room was full of men's clothes — coats, caps, and
Caroline hats. She didn't sleep, but slipped off her
own dress and put on a man's clothes. She started at
midnight, took her dress with her, and travelled till day-
light. She was within two miles of Cork then, and what
did she see coming towards her but a young man on
horseback. He saluted her, and said, " I suppose you are
travelling all night/'
" I am travelling a good part of it," said she, " and I
suppose you are, as well as myself."
" Oh, I have to rise early. I am the Mayor of Cork,
and have a deal of work on my hands," said he.
She threw herself on her knees when she heard this,
and the Mayor asked what trouble was on her. She
told of all that had happened. What he did was to tell
her to stop there while himself would be going for men
to the city. He went back and brought a good company
of soldiers with two waggons, and they never stopped till
they went to the robbers' house. The farmer's daughter
went with the Mayor and some men to the place
where she had the head covered. They brought the
head with them, and gathered all the riches at the
robbers' house, bound the old father, and took him to
Cork, where the authorities hanged him. The Mayor
was unmarried, and what did he do but marry the
farmer's daughter and keep her as his wife while she lived.
( 8i )
MAURICE GRIFFIN THE FAIRY
John M alone had promised to give some information
about doctors among the people, and tell how they got
knowledge and power. When reminded of his promise,
he told the following story :
There was a man at Dun Lean named Maurice Griffin.
He was in service as a herder minding cows, and one
morning while out with the cattle he saw something
come down through the air in the form of a white cloud
and drop on a hillock. It settled to be a lump of white
foam, and a great heat rose out of it then. One of
the cows went to the hillock and licked the foam till
she swallowed every bit of it.
When he went into breakfast Maurice told the man
of the house about the cloud, and that it was a wonder
to see the cow licking up what had settled on the
hillock. " And it was white as any linen," said he.
When the man of the house sent the servant girl to
milk the cow that evening he told her not to spill any
drop of the milk till she had it brought to himself.
Maurice Griffin went with the girl, caught the cow,
and held her. The vessel the girl was milking in did
82 Tales of the Fairies
not hold half the milk. She did not like to leave the
cow partly milked.
" Drink some of this," said she, " and let me finish, for it
would spoil the cow to leave part of the milkjwith her."
Maurice Griffin emptied the vessel three times, drank
all there was in it. The girl filled it the fourth time and
went home with the milk. The master asked, " Was
any of the milk spilled or used ? " She told him truly,
" This is the same vessel that I use always in milking,
and that cow never filled it before till to-night. I didn't
like to leave any milk with her, so I gave some to
" It was his luck give him all ; 'twas promised to him,
not to me," said the master. He was fonder of Maurice
Griffin than ever, and Maurice began to foretell right
away and cure people. The report went out through
the country that all he foretold came to pass, and all he
undertook to cure he cured. The priest, hearing this,
didn't want to have the like of him in the parish, and
spoke of him from the altar, but Griffin gave no answer.
One morning the priest went to where Griffin was,
saluted him, and was saluted in turn. " I hear that you
are curing and foretelling," said the priest. " Where did
you get the knowledge to foretell and to cure ? "
" I foretell and I cure many persons, I serve people,"
said Griffin; "and my business is as good as yours.
Some say that you have power, your reverence, but if
you have, you are not foretelling or curing.
Maurice Griffin the Fairy Doctor 83
" Well," said the priest, " I'll know can you foretell or
not. Answer me a question, and if you can I'll believe
" I'll answer you any question you'll put to me," said
" What time or minute of the day did the last new
moon appear ? "
"I will tell you that," said Griffin. "Do you re-
member that when you were passing Travug your horse
stooped to drink and his right leg was first in the river ?
Under your neck you wear a stone which the Pope gave
you ; this stone always sweats three drops at the new
moon ; the stone sweated three drops when the horse's
right foot touched the water, and that was the time of
the new moon."
"Oh," said the priest, "what is rumoured of you is
true ; follow your hand, I'll not meddle with you from
Griffin came home then and told the conversation.
The master grew very fond of him after that, and having
an only daughter he gave her to Maurice, and Griffin
lived with his father-in-law till the old man died and left
all he had to his son-in-law.
The people thought a deal of Maurice Griffin when he
got the property, and they came for counsel and cure to
Griffin had two sons ; in course of time he grew
old and at last was very weak, and his first son,
84 Tales of the Fairies
Dyeermud, managed the property. In those days every-
thing was carried to Cork on horseback. Griffin called
Dyeermud one day to him and said, " I am in dread
that I am going to die. I don't want you to go to Cork
to be absent so long."
" The company is going, and I'd like to go, too," said
Dyeermud. " My brother is here : he will care for you
and attend to everything while I am gone."
" I want you here," said the father, " for it's to you I
will do all the good."
Dyeermud had a great wish to visit Cork.
" Go," said the father, " but you'll be the loser, and
you'll remember my words."
Dyeermud went to Cork, and during his absence the
father became very sick. Once, when the younger son
was sitting at his bedside, the old man said, " I am in
dread your brother will not be at home."
"What you were to leave him leave me," said the
" I cannot. I'll give you the gift of curing, but fore-
telling I could not give if I wished."
" How can you give the gift of curing ? "
" I'll give it to you," said the father. " Go out to-
night, kill a sheep and dress it, pick the right shoulder
as clean as any bone could be cleaned from flesh, and in
the night look over that bone, and the third time you
look you'll see every one tnat you knew who is dead.
Keep that bone with you always and sleep with it, and
Maurice Griffin the Fairy Doctor 85
what you want to know to cure any disease will come to
you from the bone. When a person is to be cured from
a fairy stroke, look over the bone and a messenger will
come from the fairies, and you will be able to cure those
who come to you."
" As you will not give me the knowledge of foretelling,
I will not take the curing. I will live honestly."
" I have no power to give you the knowledge," said
the father, " but since you will not take the curing I will
give it to your mother. The knowledge I can give to no
one but your elder brother."
Griffin gave the curing to the wife. The knowledge he
could give to no one but the elder son. and to him only
Maurice Griffin died and was buried before Dyeermud
came from Cork.
Dyeermud was astonished when he came and didn't
find the father.
"You did badly not to stay," said the younger
"Didn't Heave you?"
" You did, but he could leave the knowledge only to
" Why didn't he give you the curing ? "
"He offered it to me, but I thought it too much
trouble. I would use it if I had it. I let it go to our
mother. She is old ; let her have it. As he did not give
me the knowledge I didn't want the curing. Maybe in
86 Tales of the Fairies
after years when I have children it's on them the
diseases I cured would come."
It was rumoured that the curing was with the mother,
and the people were coming to her.
Once her godson got a fairy stroke in the leg, and
she was vexed because his parents did not bring him
quickly, for next day she would not be able to cure him
at all. At last they came, and she was angry that they
were so slow.
" You might have made bacon of him if you waited
till morning," cried she. She cured him, and he was a
very strong boy after that.
The parish priest had a sick horse left out to die.
The clerk was very sorry, the horse was such a fine
beast. " Wouldn't it be better to go to Mrs. Griffin ? "
" Oh, how could she cure the horse ? " asked the priest.
" I'll go to her," said the clerk.
"If you go to her," said the priest, "I give you no
The clerk went, told Mrs. Griffin that he had come
in spite of the priest, and to cure the horse if she could.
" It was the priest himself that injured the horse," said
Mrs. Griffin. " He gave him water while hot from
driving, and because the priest is fond of the horse he
patted him and muttered something without saying God
bless you. Go now, spit three times into the horse's ears,
and say God bless you."
Maurice Griffin the Fairy Doctor 87
The clerk went and did this ; the horse rose up as
well and sound as ever, and the clerk brought him to the
stable. The priest was astonished, and said, " They have
a gift in the family : I'll not trouble them any turn again/'
Mrs. Griffin was not able to give her gift to any one ;
the bone was buried with her.
When he had finished this story Malone said that there
were different kinds of doctors, but that all received
their power either through inheritance, " it was in the
family," or by a sudden gift.
Herb doctors are in much esteem among country
people, and gain their knowledge from supernatural
sources. They don't learn : " it is given to them." The
following are two cases cited by the old man.
In former times all the people had great faith in old
women who were herb doctors. These women became
doctors, not by learning different herbs, and studying, but
by a supernatural power, and this power came to them
always without their expecting it.
One woman of great name as a doctor got her power
in this way. Three women were going to a village a
mile out of Dingle. On the road they came to a small
river, and there was no way to cross, but to walk through
the water. All at once a fine lady stood before them,
spoke very kindly to the first woman, and asked would
she carry her over the river.
" Indeed, then, I will not : Fve enough to do to carry
88 Tales of the Fairies
The lady asked the second woman and received a
like answer, but when the third woman was asked she
" I will carry you and welcome, and why not ? " So
she took the fine lady on her back, carried her over the
water, and put her down on the dry bank.
The lady thanked her very kindly, and said, " When
you wake to-morrow morning you will know all plants
and herbs, you will know what their names are, and what
virtues are in them."
Next morning when the woman woke she could call
all plants and herbs by name, she knew where they grew,
and knew the power of each, from that out she was a
Another woman was at the seashore one day. After a
time she turned to go home, and while on the way felt
afraid, she began to tremble suddenly, and grow sick from
diead. She felt that something unnatural was near her,
looked behind, and right there saw some great dark
form. The moment she looked it vanished, but from
that out she knew all plants and herbs and was a
very great doctor.
Sometimes the best doctors will leave off curing, for
they say that curing will bring misfortune in the end to
the doctors or their children. It is believed firmly that
there is a compensation for all this supernatural know-
ledge, and for everything out of the usual course of
things. All the people believe that priests have the
The Three Sisters 89
power of curing if they would only use it, but they are
unwilling to take on themselves the punishment for
curing. In former days they took pity on poor people
sometimes and risked their health to cure them.
THE THREE SISTERS AND THEIR
HUSBANDS' THREE BROTHERS
After an interval of two days we had our fifth and last
meeting in the house at the cross-road. As the old man
had told all his stories, and the blind quarryman had
only one left, my host brought a tinker who had " walked
the way" that day and was passing the night at the
house. The tinker knew none of the old tales, but as the
host said, " He has two stories that will knock a laugh
out of the company, and they prove that women can
outwit their husbands, as well as other men," we were
curious to hear what he had to say, and he told the
In the county Cork, a mile and a half from Fermoy,
there lived three brothers. The three lived in one house
for some years and never thought of marrying. On a
certain day they went to a fair in the town of Fermoy.
go Tales of the Fairies
There was a platform on the fair ground for dancing and
a fiddler on the platform to give music to the dancers.
Three sisters from the neighbourhood, handsome girls,
lively and full of jokes, made over to the three brothers
and asked would they dance. The youngest and middle
brother wouldn't think of dancing, but the eldest said,
" We mustn't refuse ; it wouldn't be good manners."
The three brothers danced with the girls, and after
the dance took them to a public-house for refreshments.
After a while the second brother spoke up and said,
" Here are three sisters, good wives for three brothers ;
why shouldn't we marry ? Let the eldest brother of us
take the eldest sister; I will take the second; the
youngest brother can have the youngest sister."
It was settled then and there that the three couples
were satisfied if the girls' parents were. Next day the
brothers went to the girls' parents and got their consent.
In a week's time they were married.
Each of the three brothers had a good farm, and each
went now to live on his own place. They lived well and
happily for about ten years, when one market-day the
eldest sister came to the second and asked her to go to
Fermoy with her.
In those days women used to carry baskets made
of willow twigs, in which they took eggs and butter to
market. The second sister said she hadn't thought of
going, but she would go, and they would ask the youngest
sister for her company.
The Three Sisters 91
All three started off, each with a basket of eggs.
After they had their eggs sold in the market they lingered
about for some time looking at people, as is usual with
farmers' wives. In the evening, when thinking of home,
they dropped into a public-house to have a drop of drink
before going. The public-house was full of people,
chatting, talking, and drinking. The three sisters did not
like to be seen at the bar, so they went to a room up
stairs, and the eldest called for three pints of porter,
which was brought without delay.
It is common for a farmer or his wife who has a ten-
shilling piece or a pound, and does not wish to break it, to
say, " I will pay the next time I come to town ; " so the
eldest sister said now. The second sister called for three
pints, and then the third followed her example.
'Tis said that women are very noisy when they've taken
a glass or two, but whether that is true or not, these three
were noisy, and their talk was so loud that Lord Fermoy,
who was above in a room finishing some business with
the keeper of the public-house, could not hear a thing for
their chat, so he sent the landlord to tell the women to
leave the room. The landlord went, and finding that
they had not paid their reckoning yet, told them it was
time they were paying their reckoning and moving towards
One of the sisters looked up and said, "The man
above * will pay all. He is good for the reckoning."
* The man above, God.
92 Tales of the Fairies
The man of the house, thinking that it was Lord
Fermoy she was speaking of, was satisfied, and went up
" Have they gone ? " asked Lord Fermoy.
" They have not, and they say that you will pay the
" Why should I pay when I don't know them ? We'll
go down and see who they are and what they mean."
The two went down, and Lord Fermoy saw that they
were tenants of his ; he knew them quite well, for they
lived near his own castle. He liked the sisters, they were
" I'll pay the reckoning, and do you bring each of these
women a glass of punch," said he to the man of the
The punch was brought without delay.
"Here is a half sovereign^for each of you," said Lord
Fermoy. " Now go home, and meet me in this place a
week from to-day. Whichever one of you during that
time makes the biggest fool of her husband will get ten
pounds in gold and ten years rent free."
" We'll do our best," said the sisters.
Each woman of them was anxious, of course, to do the
best she could. They parted at the door of the public-
house, each going her own way, and each thinking of
what could be done to win the ten pounds and ten years'
It had happened that the eldest sister's husband be-
The Three Sisters 93
came very phthisicky and sickly a couple of years after
his marriage and fell into a decline. On the way home
the wife made up her mind what to do. She bought
pipes, tobacco, candles, and other articles needed at a
wake. She was in no hurry home, so 'twas late enough
when she came to the house. When she looked in at the
window she saw her husband sitting by the fire with his
hand on his chin and the children asleep around him.
A pot of potatoes, boiled and strained, was waiting
She opened the door. The husband looked at her and
asked, " Why are you so late ? "
"Why are you off the table, and where are the sheets
that were over you ? " asked she as if in a fright ; " or
the shirt that I put on you ? I left you laid out on the
" Sure I am not dead at all. I know very well when
you started to go to the market, I wasn't dead then, and
I didn't die since you left the house."
Then she began to abuse him, and said that all his
friends were coming to the wake, and he had no right
to be off the table tormenting and abusing herself and
the children, and went on in such a way that at last he
believed himself dead and asked her in God's name to
give him a smoke and he would go up again on the table
and never come down till he was carried from it.
She gave him the pipe, but didn't let him smoke long.
Then she made him ready, put him on the table,
94 Tales of the Fairies
and spread a sheet over him. Now two poles were
stretched overhead above the body and sheets hung over
and down on the sides, as is customary. She put beads
between his two thumbs and a Prayer-book in his hands.
" You are not to open your eyes," said she, " no matter
what comes or happens." She unlocked the door then
and raised a terrible wailing over the corpse. A woman
living opposite heard the wailing, and said to her hus-
" Oh, it is Jack that is dead, and it is a shame for you
not to go to him."
" I was with him this evening," said the husband,
" and what could kill him since ? "
The wife hurried over to Jack's house, found the corpse
in it, and began to cry. Soon there was a crowd gathered,
and all crying.
The second sister going past to her own home by a
short cut, heard the keening and lamenting. " This is
my sister's trick to get the ^10 and ten years' rent,"
thought she, and began to wail also. When inside she
pinched the dead man, and pulled at him to know would
he stir ; but it was no use, he never stirred.
The second sister went home then, and she was very
late. Her husband was a strong, able-bodied man, and
when she wasn't there to milk the cows he walked up and
down the path watching for her, and he very angry. At
last he milked the cows himself, drove them out, and then
sat down in the house. When the wife came he jumped
The Three Sisters 95
up and asked, " What kept you out till this hour? 'Twas
fitter for you to be at home long ago than to be strolling
about, and the Lord knows where you were."
" How could I be here, when I stopped at the wake
where you ought to be ? "
"Your brother's wake. Jack is dead, poor man."
" What the devil was to kill Jack ? Sure I saw him
this evening, and he's not dead."
He wouldn't believe, and to convince him she said,
" Come to the field and you'll see the lights, and maybe
you'll hear the keening."
She took him over the ditch into the field, and seeing
the lights he said, " Sure my poor brother is dead I "
and began to cry.
» " Didn't I tell you, you stump of a fool, that your
brother was dead, and why don't you go to his wake and
go in mourning ? A respectable person goes in mourn-
ing for a relative and gets credit for it ever after."
" What is mourning ? " asked the husband.
" Tis well I know," said she, " what mourning is, for
didn't my mother teach me, and I will show you."
She brought him to the house and told Him to throw
off all his clothes and put on a pair of tight-fitting black
knee breeches. He did so ; she took a wet brush then,
and reaching it up in the chimney, got plenty of soot
and blacked him all over from head to foot, and he naked
except the black breeches. When she had him well
96 Tales of the Fairies
blackened she put a black stick in his hand. " Now,"
said she, "go to the wake, and what you are doing will
be a credit to the family for seven generations."
He started off wailing and crying. Whenever a wake
house is full, benches and seats are put outside, men and
women sit on these benches till some of those inside go
home, then those outside go in. It is common also for
boys to go to wakes and get pipes and tobacco, for every
one gets a pipe, from a child of three to old men and
women. Some of the boys at Jack's wake, after getting
their pipes and tobacco, ran off to the field to smoke,
where their parents couldn't see them. Seeing the black
man coming, the boys dropped their pipes and ran back to
the wakehouse, screaming to the people who were sitting
outside that the devil was coming to carry the corpse with
him. One of the men who stood near was sharper-sighted
than others, and looking in the direction pointed out, said :
" Sure the devil is coming ! And people thought that
Jack was a fine, decent man, but now it turns out that he
was different. I'll not be waiting here ! " He took himself
off as fast as his legs could carry him, and others after
Soon the report went into the wake house, and the
corpse heard that the devil was coming to take him, but
for all that he hadn't courage to stir. A man put his head
out of the house, and, seeing the black man, screamed,
" I declare to God that the devil is coming ! " With
that he ran off, and his wife hurried after him.
The Three Sisters 97
That moment everybody crowded so much to get out
of the house that they fell one over another, screeching
and screaming. The woman of the house ran away with
the others. The dead man was left alone. He opened
one eye right away, and seeing the last woman hurrying
off he said :
" I declare to the Lord I'll not stay here and wait for
the devil to take me ! " With that he sprang from the
table, and wrapped the sheet round his body, and away
with him then as fast as ever his legs could carry him.
His brother, the black man, saw him springing through
the door, and, thinking it was Death that had lifted
his brother and was running away with him to deprive
the corpse of wake and Christian burial, he ran after him
to save him. When the corpse screamed the black man
screamed, and so they ran, and the people in terror fell
into holes and ditches, trying to escape from Death and
The third sister was later than the other two in coming
home from Fermoy. She knew her husband was a great
sleeper, and she could do anything with him when
he was drowsy. She looked into the house through a
window that opened on hinges. She saw him sitting by
the fire asleep ; the children were sleeping near him. A
pot of potatoes was standing by the fire. She knew that
she could get in at the window if she took off some of
her clothes. She did so and crawled in. The husband
had long hair. She cut the hair close off to his head,
98 Tales of the Fairies
threw it in the fire and burned it ; then she went out
through the window, and, taking a large stone, pounded
on the door and roused her husband at last. He
opened the door, began to scold her for being out
so late, and blamed her greatly.
" Tis a shame for you," said he. " The children are
sleeping on the floor, and the potatoes boiled for the last
"Bad luck to you, you fool!" said the woman.
" Who are you to be ordering me ? Isn't it enough for
my own husband to be doing that ? "
"Are you out of your mind or drunk that you
don't know me?" said the man. "Sure, I am your
" Indeed you are not," said she.
"And why not?"
" Because you are not ; you don't look like him. My
husband has fine long, curly hair. Not so with you ; you
look like a shorn wether."
He put his hands to his head, and, finding no hair on
it, cried out, " I declare to the Lord that I am your
husband, but I must have lost my hair while shearing the
sheep this evening. I'm your husband."
" Be off out of this ! " screamed the woman. " When
my husband comes he'll not leave you long in the
house, if you are here before him."
In those days the people used bog pine for torches
and lighting fires. The man having a bundle of bog pine
The Three Sisters 99
cut in pieces, took some fire and went towards the field,
where he'd been shearing sheep. He went out to know
could he find his hair and convince the wife. When he
reached the right place he set fire to a couple of pine
sticks, and they made a fine blaze. He went on his
knees and was searching for the hair. He searched the
four corners of the field, crawling hither and over, but if
he did not a lock of hair could he find. He went next
to the middle of the field, dropped on his knees, and
began to crawl around to know could he find his hair.
While doing this he heard a terrible noise of men, and
they running towards him, puffing and panting. Who
were they but the dead man and the devil ? The dead
man was losing his breath and was making for the first
light before him. He was in such terror that he didn't see
how near he was to the light, and tumbled over the man
who was searching for his hair.
" Oh, God help me ! " cried the corpse. " I'm done
for now ! "
Hearing his brother's voice, the black man, who was
there, recognised him. The man looking for the hair
rose up, and seeing his brothers, knew them ; then each
told the others everything, and they saw right away that
the whole affair was planned by their wives.
The husbands went home well fooled, shame-faced, and
angry. On the following day the women went to get
the prize. When the whole story was told it was a great
question who was to have the money. Lord Fermoy
ioo Tales of the Fairies
could not settle it himself, and called a council of the
gentry to decide, but they could not decide who was the
cleverest woman. What the council agreed on was this :
To make up a purse of sixty pounds, and give twenty
pounds and twenty years' rent to each of the three,
if they all solved the problem that would be put to them.
If two solved it they would get thirty pounds apiece and
thirty years' rent ; if only one, she would get the whole
purse of sixty pounds and rent free for sixty years.
" This is the riddle," said the council to the sisters :
" There are four rooms in a row here ; this is the first
one. We will put a pile of apples in the fourth room ;
there will be a man of us in the third, second, and first
room. You are to go to the fourth room, take as many
apples as you like, and when you come to the third room
you are to give the man in it half of what apples you'll
bring, and half an apple without cutting it. When you
come to the second room you are to do the same
with what apples you will have left. In the first room
you will do the same as in the third and second. Now
we will go to put the apples in the fourth room, and we'll
give each of you one hour to work out the problem."
" It's the devil to give half an apple without cutting it,"
said the elder sister.
When the men had gone the youngest sister said, " I
can do it and I can get the sixty pounds, but as we are
three sisters I'll be liberal and divide with you. I'll go
first, and let each come an hour after the other. Each
The Three Sisters ioi
will take fifteen apples, and when she comes to the man
in the third room she will ask him how much is one-half
of fifteen ; he will say seven and a half. She will give
him eight apples then and say : " This is half of what I
have and half an apple uncut for you." With the seven
apples she will go to the second room and ask the man
there what is one-half of seven ; he will say three and a
half. She will give him four apples and say, " Here are
three apples and a half and the half of an uncut apple
for you." With three apples left she will go to the man
in the first room and ask what is the half of three. He
will answer, " One and a half." " Here are two apples
for you," she will say then; "one apple and a half and
the half of an uncut apple."
The eldest and second sister did as the youngest toid
them. Each received twenty pounds and twenty years*
( "2 )
JOHN SHEA AND THE TREASURE
You have two stories of wise women, said the blind
man. Now Til tell the story of a man who came to the
knowledge of what gold was in the kingdom, and lost
it all through his own foolishness :
Between Dingle and the village of Banog there lived
one John Shea, and he was a very poor man, though he
worked late and early whenever he found work to do.
At last he said that he'd be starving at home no longer,
he'd go to some foreign country. So off he started one
day and never stopped travelling till he came to Cork
and found a ship bound for Lochlin, which the people
call Denmark now.
Shea went on board the ship, and the captain asked
where he was going.
" I don't care much where I go," answered Shea, " if I
go out of this place."
" There is no use in your going to Lochlin," said the
captain; "the people there kill every Irishman that
comes to that country."
" It's all one to me," said Shea ; " I might as well be
killed by the Danes as die of hunger at home."
The captain raised anchor, sailed away with Shea on
John Shea and the Treasure 103
board, and reached Lochlin at last. John Shea stepped
on shore and went along, not knowing or caring much
where he went. While travelling he came to a cross-road
and took the right hand. At one side of the road was a
hedge neatly trimmed.
This might lead to some house where I could find
work," thought Shea. He travelled on and reached
a fine mansion at last and went in to ask for employ-
ment. Inside he saw two old men bearded to the waist
and one old hag bearded to the eyes.
" Where did you come from ? " asked one of the old
" From Erin," said Shea.
" What brought you to Lochlin ? "
"To tell you the truth, I was starving, and left
home to find employment and food. I took shipping
at Cork, and the captain I sailed with landed me
" Sit down," said one of the old men. " We will not
eat you, never fear; and there is plenty of gold and
silver to be had if there is any good in you. Come
this way," continued the old man, rising.
Shea followed the old man, who led him to a small
room. In the floor of the room was a flat stone, with a
ring in the middle of it. " Lift this if you can," said the
old man. Shea pulled, but thought if all the men in
Erin were to try, they could not lift the stone.
"I cannot lift it now," said he; "but if I were in
104 Tales of the Fairies
the country a while, and had more to eat, I think I could
The old man stooped down, both puLed, and together
raised the stone.
Underneath was a barrel of gold. "I will give
you some of this," said the old man. Shea filled his
two pockets. When he had the gold, the two men talked
as follows :
" What part of Erin did you come from ? "
" From Banog, near Dingle."
" Are you well acquainted with Dingle ? "
" Indeed then I am. And why shouldn't I be ; don't
I go there to mass every Sunday, and wasn't I reared
in the neighbourhood ? "
" Go home now, John Shea, and in Banog, two fields
from your house, is a fairy fort, and a very fine fort it is.
You have gold in plenty to take you home. When you
are in Dingle go to the best meatshop in the town and
buy a leg of mutton, then buy a load of turf — ten to
twenty creels of it — build a good fire outside the fort
and roast the leg of mutton. While the mutton is roast-
ing, the smell of it will be over the place, the fort will
open, and a cat will rise out of it and come towards you.
Hide before the cat sees you, and from your hiding-place
watch her. She will walk up to the mutton, eat all she
can of it, then she will lie down near the fire and fall
asleep. That is your time. When you have the cat
killed the fort will open. Do you go in then. Inside
John Shea and the Treasure 105
you will find a basin, a towel, and a razor. Take these
and bring them to me. Touch nothing else in the fort.
If you do you may never come out of it."
When John Shea had these directions he came back
to Erin and made his way to Banog, bought the
mutton, and did everything according to the old man's
wish. When the mutton was roasted the cat came out
and ate all she wanted or was able to eat. She stretched
out then near the fire and fell asleep.
John Shea stole up softly, caught the cat by the throat,
strangled her, and threw her aside. Straightway a broad
door in the fort was thrown open. John Shea walked
in through the door. In the first room on his left he
saw a basin, a towel, and a razor. He did not touch these,
but walked on to the next room, and there he saw a
barrel of gold. At sight of the gold he remembered the
old man in Lochlin, and turned back at once.
He took the basin, the towel, and the razor, hurried
away from Banog to Cork, and never stopped till he
walked into the old man's mansion in Lochlin.
" Have you the razor, the basin, and the towel ? "
asked the old man.
" I have," said John Shea ; " here they are."
The two old men and the hag were there as before ;
they hadn't changed one hair.
"Move up here now, John Shea," said the old man;
" lather and shave me."
"Oh, then, I never was any good to shave," said
106 Tales of the Fairies
John Shea, " but your head is not hard, and I'll do what
I can on you."
He shaved the old man, and when he had him shaved
it wasn't an old man at all that was in it, but a youth of
nineteen. The next old man, seeing the brother so
young, was dying to lose his own beard.
" You'll make a real barber of me," said Shea.
When the second old man was shaved he was eigh-
teen years of age.
" For God's sake, shave me ! " begged the hag.
" I never thought to shave a woman/' said Shea ; " but
I can't refuse you."
Shea shaved the old hag, and she was a young girl of
"Now," said the two brothers to John Shea, "since
you have done so much good to us we'll take you hunt-
They went out hunting, and all the game they saw
that day was one mouse. They brought the mouse
home and boiled it. When John Shea had his part of
the mouse eaten he knew where all the hidden gold was
in Erin. Up he jumped from his seat.
" Musha, my God ! " cried he. "I am the happiest
man in the world this day. The devil a piece of gold
is there in Erin but I know where it is. I'll be the rich
man now I "
The two men, seeing John Shea jumping and hearing
him screech from delight, said :
John Shea and the Treasure 107
" There was never much power of keeping a secret in
" He is not to be trusted," said the sister ; " he
would give away the secret. Let him have some of
the mouse broth to drink."
The men gave him the broth. He drank of it and
lost knowledge of all the treasures the moment he
swallowed the broth. They gave him only money
enough for his passage to Cork and told him to go his
own way for himself, they had no further use for him.
John Shea went back to Banog, where he died in the
famine year (1847), and was buried at public expense.
The preceding group of fairy tales are connected with
the peninsula between the bays of Dingle and Tralee.
The following tales were taken down west of the
Killarney mountains, but between Dingle Bay and
Kenmare River, and relate to the southern half of
In this mountainous region the Gaelic language is
spoken generally by the older inhabitants, and in many
places ancient ways of thinking are well preserved
among people of fifty years and upward. Persons be-
tween thirty and fifty, though they know the old-time
ideas, do not live in them altogether. As to people of
the rising generation, their minds seem turned in another
direction. They are not settled anywhere yet ; some of
them are seeking, others are drifting.
fo8 Tales of the Fairies
In general, the region is not one of rapid movement,
and in many nooks and corners of it the past is well re-
presented. The present tales touching fairies, ghosts,
and various personages outside ordinary human life refer
to actual beliefs. Some persons hold to these beliefs as
firmly as possible; indeed, they are among the main
articles of faith for a good number of the old people.
There are persons in the educated world who consider
fairy tales as mere sources of amusement; there are
others who look on them as too frivolous to be read by
serious people. Both views are erroneous. Fairy tales
contain the remnants of a religious system prior to
Christianity. When these tales are collected and com-
pared with each other and with that mass of Keltic litera-
ture extending from the twelfth to the present century,
and which remains in manuscript in Dublin, London,
Brussels, Rome, and elsewhere, we may expect to find
a certain religious system, a certain philosophy of life
and death, exhibited to us with a tolerable degree of
In the fairy tales which I have collected so far, and in
the conversation of the men who told them to me, I find
a remarkable freedom of intercourse between the visible
and the unseen worlds, between what we call the dead
and the living — a certain intimate communion between
what has been and what is. Unless in the case of old
people, it can hardly be said that there is such a thing
as death in the Keltic fairy philosophy. Children and
Celtic Fairy Philosophy 109
young persons are removed ; other bodies, apparently
diseased or dying, are put in their places. The persons
removed are taken to fairy mansions ; if they eat they
are lost to this life; if they refrain they have seven
years in which return is possible.
This is only one item in the system of extra human
forces in Keltic belief. All that we find so far in Hero
Tales or Fairy Tales in Ireland is in close connection
with that pre-Christian religion which covered the earth
and included all races of men, which, in its boundless
variety, was essentially the same, whether we consider
the Greeks and Hindoos or the Indians of North and
South America. For this religion, raising the dead,
travelling on the water, running through the air, are not
exceptional or wonderful ; they are of daily occurrence
and common ; they are not merely incidents in it, but
part of its machinery. This old universal religion had
many other ideas which acquired new associations after
the Christian era and took on new names. It is most
interesting to note how much of it survives yet, not
only among the uninstructed but among the leaders of
I found two tales of St. Martin, which are given here.
The first is curious as containing the man-eating ghost,
which is common enough among the Slavs, but which I
find now in Ireland for the first time.
The grey cows from the sea, in the second St. Martin
story, seem of the same breed as Glas Gainach brought
no Tales of the Fairies
from Spain by Elin Gow and the Glas Gavlen stolen by
Balor of Tory Island.
The sacredness of the plough chains is an interesting
bit of agricultural lore in the story of John Reardon.
The heated coulter of a plough is used in Ireland to
force confession from a witch who prevents butter from
appearing when milk is churned.
The ocular illusion by which one thing seems another,
which causes Tom Connors to think that an old horse
is his cow Cooby, is common among all peoples. I
found some excellent illustrations of it in stories of the
Modoc Indians of Oregon.
ST. MARTIN'S EVE
TOLD BY JOHN SHEEHY
In Iveragh, not very far from the town of Cahirciveen,
there lived a farmer named James Shea with his wife
and three children, two sons and a daughter. The man
was peaceable, honest, and very charitable to the poor,
but his wife was hard-hearted, never giving even a drink
of milk to a needy person. Her younger son was as
bad in every way as herself, and whatever the mother
did he always agreed with her and was on her side.
St. Martin's Eve hi
This was before the roads and cars were in the Kerry
Mountains. The only way of travelling in those days,
when a man didn't walk, was to ride sitting on a straw
saddle, and the only way to take anything to market
was on horseback in creels.
It happened, at any rate, that James Shea was going
in the beginning of November to Cork with two firkins
of butter, and what troubled him most was the fear that
he'd not be home on Saint Martin's night to do honour
to the saint. For never had he let that night pass
without drawing blood in honour of the saint. To make
sure, he called the elder son and said, "if I am not
at the house on Saint Martin's night, kill the big sheep
that is running with the cows.
Shea went away to Cork with the butter, but could
not be home in time. The elder son went out on
Saint Martin's eve, when he saw that his father was not
coming, and drove the sheep into the house.
" What are you doing, you fool, with that sheep ? "
asked the mother.
"Sure, I'm going to kill it. Didn't you hear my
father tell me that there was never a Saint Martin's
night but he drew blood, and do you want to have the
house disgraced ? "
At this the mother made sport of him and said : " Drive
out the sheep and I'll give you something else to kill by
and by." So the boy let the sheep out, thinking the
mother would kill a goose.
ii2 Tales of the Fairies
He sat down and waited for the mother to give him
whatever she had to kill. It wasn't long till she came in,
bringing a big tomcat they had, and the same cat was in
the house nine or ten years.
"Here," said she, "you can kill this beast and draw
its blood. We'll have it cooked when your father comes
The boy was very angry and spoke up to the mother :
" Sure the house is disgraced for ever," said he, " and it
will not be easy for you to satisfy my father when he
He didn't kill the cat, you may be sure ; and neither he
nor his sister ate a bite of supper, and they were crying
and fretting over the disgrace all the evening.
That very night the house caught fire and burned
down, nothing was left but the four walls. The mother
and younger son were burned to death, but the elder son
and his sister escaped by some miracle. They went to
a neighbour's house, and were there till the father came
on the following evening. When he found the house
destroyed and the wife and younger son dead he
mourned and lamented. But when the other son told
him what the mother did on Saint Martin's eve, he cried
" Ah, it was the wrath of God that fell on my house ;
if I had stopped at home till after Saint Martin's night, all
would be safe and well with me now."
James Shea went to the priest on the following morn-
St. Martin's Eve 113
ing, and asked would it be good or lucky for him to
rebuild the house.
" Indeed," said the priest, " there is no harm in putting
a roof on the walls and repairing them if you will have
Mass celebrated in the house before you go to live in it.
If you do that all will be well with you."
[Shea spoke to the priest because people are opposed
to repairing or rebuilding a burnt house, and especially
if any person has been burned in it.]
Well, James Shea put a roof on the house, repaired it,
and had Mass celebrated inside. That evening as Shea
was sitting down to supper what should he see but his
wife coming in the door to him. He thought she wasn't
dead at all. "Ah, Mary," said he, "'tis not so bad as
they told me. Sure, I thought it is dead you were. Oh,
then you are welcome home ; come and sit down here ;
the supper is just ready."
She didn't answer a word, but looked him straight in
the face and walked on to the room at the other end of
the house. He jumped up, thinking it's sick the woman
was, and followed her to the room to help her. He shut
the door after him. As he was not coming back for a
long time the son thought at last that he'd go and ask
the father why he wasn't eating his supper. When he
went into the room he saw no sign of his mother, saw
nothing in the place but two legs from the knees down.
He screamed out for his sister and she came.
" Oh, merciful God ! " screamed the sister.
ii4 Tales of the Fairies
" Those are my father's legs ! " cried the brother, " and
Mary, don't you know the stockings, sure you knitted
them yourself, and don't I know the brogues very well ? "
They called in the neighbours, and, to the terror of
them all, they saw nothing but the two legs and feet of
There was a wake over the remains that night, and
the next day they buried the two legs. Some people
advised the boy and girl never to sleep a night in the
house, that their mother's soul was lost, and that was
why she came and ate up the father, and she would eat
themselves as well.
The two now started to walk the world, not caring
much where they were going if only they escaped the
mother. They stopped the first night at a farmer's house
not far from Killarney. After supper a bed was made
down for them by the fire, in the corner, and they lay
there. About the middle of the night a great noise was
heard outside, and the woman of the house called to her
boys and servants to get up and go to the cow-house to
know why the cows were striving to kill one another.
Her own son rose first. When he and the two servant
boys went out they saw the ghost of a woman, and she
in chains. She made at them, and wasn't long killing
Not seeing the boys come in, the farmer and his wife
rose up sprinkled holy water around the house, blessed
themselves and went out, and there they saw the ghost
St. Martin's Eve 115
in blue blazes and chains around her. In a coop outside
by himself was a March cock * He flew down from
his perch and crowed twelve times. That moment the
Now the neighbours were roused, and the news flew
around that the three boys were killed. The brother and
sister didn't say a word to any one, but, rising up early,
started on their journey, begging God's protection as
they went. They never stopped nor stayed till they
came to Rathmore, near Cork, and, going to a farmhouse,
the boy asked for lodgings in God's name.
"I will give you lodgings in His name," said the
She brought warm water for the two to wash their
hands and feet, for they were tired and dusty. After
supper a bed was put down for them, and about the same
hour as the night before there was a great noise outside.
" Rise up and go out," said the farmer's wife \ " some
of the cows must be untied."
" I'll not go out at this hour of the night, if they are
untied itself," said the man, " I'll stay where I am, if
they kill one another, for it isn't safe to go out till the
cock crows ; after cock-crow I'll go out."
" That's true for you," said the farmer's wife, " and,
upon my word, before coming to bed, I forgot to sprinkle
holy water in the room, and to bless myself."
* A cock hatched in March from a cock and hen hatched in
n6 Tales of the Fairies
So taking the bottle hanging near the bed, she
sprinkled the water around the room and toward the
threshold, and made the sign of the cross. The man
didn't go out until cock-crow. The brother and sister
went away early, and travelled all day. Coming evening
they met a pleasant-looking man who stood before them
in the road.
" You seem to be strangers," said he, " and where are
you going ? "
"We are strangers," said the boy, "and we don't
know where to go."
" You need go no farther. I know you well, your
home is in Iveragh. I am Saint Martin, sent from the
Lord to protect you and your sister. You were going to
draw the blood of a sheep in my honour, but your mother
and brother made sport of you, and your mother wouldn't
let you do what your father told you. You see what has
come to them ; they are lost for ever, both of them. Your
father is saved in heaven, for he was a good man. Your
mother will be here soon, and I'll put her in the way that
she'll never trouble you again."
Taking a rod from his bosom and dipping it in a vial
of holy water he drew a circle around the brother
and sister. Soon they heard their mother coming, and
then they saw her with chains on her, and the rattling
was terrible, and flames were rising from her. She came
to where they stood, and said : " Bad luck to you both
for being the cause of my misery."
St. Martin's Eve 117
"God forbid that," said Saint Martin. "It isn't they
are the cause, but yourself, for you were always bad*
You would not honour me, and now you must suffer
He pulled out a book and began to read, and after he
read a few minutes he told her to depart and not be
seen in Ireland again till the day of judgment. She rose
in the air in flames of fire, and with such a noise that
you'd think all the thunders of heaven were roaring and
all the houses and walls in the kingdom were tumbling
to the ground.
The brother and sister went on their knees and thanked
Saint Martin. He blessed them and told them to rise,
and taking a little table-cloth out of his bosom he said
to the brother : " Take this cloth with you and keep it in
secret Let no one know that you have it. If you or
your sister are in need go to your room, close the door
behind you and bolt it. Spread out the cloth then, and
plenty of everything to eat and drink will come to you.
Keep the cloth with you always ; it belongs to both of
you. Now go home and live in the house that your
father built, and let the priest come and celebrate
Monday Mass in it, and live the life that your father
lived before you."
The two came home, and brother and sister lived a
good life. They married, and when either was m need
that one had the cloth to fall back on, and their grand-
children are living yet in Iveragh. And this is truth,
n8 Tales of the Fairies
every word of it, and it's often I heard my poor grand-
mother tell this story, the Almighty God rest her soul, and
she was the woman that wouldn't tell a lie. She knew
James Shea and his wife very well.
JAMES MURRAY AND SAINT MARTIN
TOLD BY TIMOTHY SHEAHY
There was a small farmer named James Murray, who
lived between this and Slieve Mish. He had the grass
of seven cows, but though he had the land, he hadn't
stock to put on it ; he had but the one cow. Being a
poor man, he went to Cork with four firkins of butter for
a neighbour. He never thought what day of the month
it was until he had the butter sold in the city, and it was
Saint Martin's eve at the time. Himself and his father
before him and his grandfather had always killed some-
thing to honour Saint Martin, and when he was in Cork
on Saint Martin's eve he felt heartsore and could not eat.
He walked around and muttered to himself : " I wish to
the Almighty God I was at home; my house will be
disgraced for ever."
The words weren't out of his mouth when a fine-looking
James Murray and St. Martin 119
gentleman stood before him and asked : " What trouble
is on you, good man ? "
James Murray told the gentleman.
" Well, my poor man, you would like to be at home
"Indeed, then, I would, and but for I forgot the
day of the month, it isn't here I'd be now, poor as
" Where do you live ? "
" Near the foot of Slieve Mish, in Kerry."
" Bring out your horse and creels, and you will be at
" What is the use in talking ? Tis too far for such a
"Never mind; bring out your horse."
James Murray led out the horse, mounted, and rode
away. He thought he wasn't two hours on the road when
he was going in at his own door. Sure, his wife was
astonished and didn't believe that he could be home from
Cork in that time; it was only when he showed the
money they paid him for the other man's butter that she
"Well, this is Saint Martin's eve ! "
"It is," said she. "What are we to do? I don't
know, for we have nothing to kill."
Out went James and drove in the cow.
" What are you going to do ? " asked the wife.
" To kill the cow in honour of Saint Martin."
120 Tales of the Fairies
" Indeed, then, you will not."
"I will, indeed," and he killed her. He skinned
the cow and cooked some of her flesh, but the woman
was down in the room at the other end of the house
" Come up now and eat your supper," said the
But she would not eat, and was only complaining and
crying. After supper the whole family went to bed.
Murray rose at daybreak next morning, went to the door,
and saw seven gray cows, and they feeding in the
" Whose cows are those eating my grass ? " cried he,
and ran out to drive them away. Then he saw that they
were not like other cattle in the district, and they were fat
and bursting with milk.
" I'll have the milk at least, to pay for the grass they've
eaten," said James Murray. So his wife milked the gray
cows and he drove them back to the field. The cows
were contented in themselves and didn't wish to go away,
Next day he published the cows, but no one ever came
to claim them.
" It was the Almighty God and Saint Martin who sent
these cows," said he, and he kept them. In the summer
all the cows had heifer calves, and every year for seven
years they had heifer calves, and the calves were all
gray, like the cows. James Murray got very rich, and his
crops were the best in the county. He bought new land
Fairy Cows 121
and had a deal of money put away; but it happened
on the eighth year one of the cows had a bull calf.
What did Murray do but kill the calf. That minute
the seven old cows began to bellow and run away,
and the calves bellowed and followed them, all ran
and never stopped till they went into the sea and dis-
appeared under the waves. They were never seen after
thatj but, as Murray used to give away a heifer calf
sometimes during the seven years, there are cows of
that breed around Slieve, Mish, and Dingle to this day,
and every one is as good as two cows.
TOLD BY WILLIAM KEATING
In the parish of Drummor lived a farmer, whose name
was Tom Connors. He had a nice bit of land and four
cows. He was a fine, strong, honest man, and had a
wife and five children.
Connors had one cow which was better than the other
three, and she went by the name of Cooby. She got
that name because her two horns turned in toward her
eyes. They used to feed her often at the house, and
she was very gentle, and had a heifer calf every year for
five or six years.
122 Tales of the Fairies
On one corner of Connor's farm there was a fairy
fort, and the cow Cooby used to go into the fort, but
Connors always drove her out, and told his wife and boys
to keep her away from the fort, "for/' said he, "it isn't
much luck there is for any cow or calf that is fond of
going into these fairy forts."
Soon they noticed that Cooby's milk was failing her
and that she was beginning to pine away, and though she
had the same food at home as before, nothing would do
her but to go to the fort.
One morning when Connors went to drive his cows
home to be milked he found Cooby on the field and her
forelegs broken. He ran home that minute for a knife,
killed and skinned the cow, made four parts of the carcase,
put the pieces in a hamper, and carried the hamper home
on his back.
What of the meat himself and family didn't eat fresh
he salted, and now and then of a Sunday evening or a
holiday they had a meal of it with cabbage, and it lasted
a ong time.
One morning after Tom was gone to the bog to cut
turf the wife went out to milk, and what should she see
but a cow walking into the fort, and she the living
image of Cooby. Soon the cow came out, and with her
a girl with a pail and spancel.
"Oh, then," said Mrs. Connors, "Fd swear that is
Cooby, only that we are after eating the most of her. She
Fairy Cows 123:
has the white spots on her back and the horns growing
into her eyes."
The girl milked the cow, and then cow and girl dis-
appeared. Mrs. Connors meant to tell her husband that
night about the cow, but she forgot it, they having
no meat for supper.
The following day Tom went again to cut turf, the
woman went to milk, and again she saw the cow go into
the fort, and the girl come out with a pail and a spancel.
The girl tied the cow's legs, and sitting under her began
" God knows 'tis the very cow, and sure why shouldn't
I know Cooby with the three white spots and the bent
horns," thought Mrs. Connors, and she watched the cow
and girl till the milking was over and thought, " I'll tell
Tom to-night, and he may do what he likes, but I'll have
nothing to do with fort or fairies myself."
When Connors came home in the evening, the first
words before him were : " Wisha then, Tom, I have the
news for you to-night."
" And what news is it ? " asked Tom.
" You remember Cooby ? "
"Why shouldn't I remember Cooby, and we after
eating the most of her ? "
"Indeed then, Tom, I saw Cooby to-day, and she
inside in the fort and a girl milking her.''
"Don't be making a fool of yourself. Is it the cow
124 Tales of the Fairies
we are eating that would be in the fort giving
milk? 5 '
" Faith, then, I saw her and the three white spots on
" But what is the use in telling me the like of that,"
said Tom, "when we haven't but two or three bits of her
left inside in the tub ? "
" If we haven't itself, I saw Cooby to-day."
" Well, 111 go in the morning, and if it's our Cooby
that's in it I'll bring her home with me," said Tom, " if
all the devils in the fort were before me."
" Ah, Tom, if it's to the fort you'll be going, don't for-
get to put holy water over you before you go."
Early in the morning Tom started across his land, and
never stopped till he came to the fort, and there, sure
enough, he saw the cow walking in through the gap to
the fort, and he knew her that minute.
"'Tis my cow Cooby," said Connors, "and I'll have
her. I'd like to see the man would keep her from
That minute the girl came out with her pail and
spancel and was going up to Cooby.
" Stop where you are ; don't milk that cow ! " cried
Connors, and springing toward the cow he caught her
by the horn. " Let go the cow," said Tom ; " this is my
cow. It's a year that she's from me now. Go to your
master and tell him to come out to me."
The girl went inside the fort and disappeared ; but
Fairy Cows 125
soon a fine-looking young man came and spoke to
Connors. " What are you doing here, my man," asked
he, " and why did you stop my servant from milking the
cow ? "
" She is my cow," said Tom, " and by that same token
111 keep her ; and that's why I stopped the girl from
" How could she be your cow ? Haven't I this cow
a long time, and aren't you after eating your own
" I don't care what cow I'm after eating," said Tom.
" I'll have this cow, for she is my Cooby."
They argued and argued. Tom declared that he'd
take the cow home. " And if you try to prevent me,"
said he to the man, " I'll tear the fort to pieces or take
her with me."
" Indeed, then, you'll not tear the fort."
Tom got so vexed that he made at the man. The
man ran and Tom after him into the fort. When Tom
was inside he forgot all about fighting. He saw many
people dancing and enjoying themselves, and he thought,
"Why shouldn't I do the like myself?" With that he
made up to a fine-looking girl, and, taking her out to
dance, told the piper to strike up a hornpipe, and he
Tom danced till he was tired. He offered twopence
to the piper, but not a penny would the piper take from
126 Tales of the Fairies
The young man came up and said, " Well, you are a
brave man and courageous, and for the future we'll be
good friends. You can take the cow."
" I will not take her ; you may keep her and
welcome, for you are all very good people."
" Well," said the young man, " the cow is yours, and
it's why I took her because there were many children in
the fort without nurses, but the children are reared now,
and you may take the cow. I put an old stray horse in
place of her and made him look like your own beast, and
it's an old horse your eating all the year. From this out
you'll grow rich and have luck. We'll not trouble you,
but help you."
Tom took the cow and drove her home. From that
out Tom Connors' cows had two calves apiece and his
mare had two foals and his sheep two lambs every year,
and every acre of the land he had gave him as much
crop in one year as another man got from an acre in
seven. At last Connors was a very rich man ; and why
not, when the fairies were with him ?
( i*7 )
JOHN REARDON AND THE SISTER
Once there was a farmer, a widower, Tom Reardon,
who lived near Castlemain. He had an only son, a fine
strong boy, who was almost a man, and the boy's name
was John. This farmer married a second time, and the
stepmother hated the boy and gave him neither rest nor
peace. She was turning the father's mind against the
son, till at last the farmer resolved to put the son in
a place where a ghost was, and this ghost never let any
man go without killing him.
One day the father sent the son to the forge with some
chains belonging to a plough ; he would have two horses
ploughing next day.
The boy took the chains to the forge; and it was
nearly evening when the father sent him, and the forge
was four miles away.
The smith had much work and he hadn't the chains
mended till close on to midnight. The smith had two
sons, and they didn't wish to let John go, but he said he
must go, for he had promised to be home and the father
would kill him if he stayed away. They stood before
him in the door, but he went in spite of them.
When two miles from the forge a ghost rose up before
John, a woman ; she attacked him and they fought for
128 Tales of the Fairies
two hours, when he put the plough chain round her.
She could do nothing then, because what belongs to a
plough is blessed. He fastened the chain and dragged
the ghost home with him, and told her to go to the bed-
room and give the father and stepmother a rough hand-
ling, not to spare them.
The ghost beat them till the father cried for mercy, and
said if he lived till morning he'd leave the place, and
that the wife was the cause of putting John in the way to
John put food on the table and told the ghost to sit
down and eat for herself, but she refused and said he
must take her back to the very spot where he found her.
John was willing to do that, and he went with her. She
told him to come to that place on the following night,
that there was a sister of hers, a ghost, a deal more
determined and stronger than what herself was.
John told her that maybe the two of them would
attack and kill him. She said that they would not, that
she wanted his help against the sister, and that he would
not be sorry for helping her. He told her he would
come, and when he was leaving her she said not to forget
the plough chains.
Next morning the father was going to leave the house,
but the wife persuaded him to stay. " That ghost will
never walk the way again," said she.
John went the following night, and the ghost was
waiting before him on the spot where he fought with
John Reardon and the Sister Ghosts 129
her. They walked on together two miles by a different
road, and halted. They were talking in that place a
while when the sister came and attacked John Reardon,
and they were fighting two hours and she was getting the
better of the boy, when the first sister put the plough
chains around her, He pulled her home with the chains,
and the first sister walked along behind them. When
John came to the house he opened the door, and when
the father saw the two ghosts he said that if morning
overtook him alive he'd leave the son everything, the
farm and the house.
The son told the second ghost to go down and give a
good turn to the stepmother ; "let her have a few strong
knocks," said he.
The second ghost barely left life in the stepmother,
John had food on the table, but they would not take a
bite, and the second sister said he must take her back to
the very spot where he met her first. He said he would.
She told him that he was the bravest man that ever stood
before her, and that she would not threaten him again in
the world, and told him to come the next night. He
said he would not, for the two might attack and get the
better of him. They promised they would not attack,
but would help him, for it was to get the upper hand of
the youngest and strongest of the sisters that they
wanted him, and that he must bring the plough chains,
for without them they could do nothing.
He agreed to go if they would give their word not
130 Tales of the Fairies
to harm him. They said they would give the word and
would help him the best they could.
The next day, when the father was going to leave
the place, the wife would not let him. "Stay where
you are," she said, " they'll never trouble us again. 55
John went the third night, and when he came the two
sisters were before him, and they walked till they
travelled four miles ; then told him to stop on the green
grass at one side, and not to be on the road.
They weren't waiting long when the third sister came,
and red lightning flashing from her mouth. She went
at John, and with the first blow that she gave him
put him on his knees. He rose with the help of the two
sisters, and for three hours they fought, and the youngest
sister was getting the better of the boy when the two
others threw the chains around her. The boy dragged
her away home with him then, and when the step-
mother saw the three sisters coming herself and
John's father were terrified and they died of fright, the
two of them.
John put food on the table, and told the sisters to
come and eat, but they refused, and the youngest told
him that he must take her to the spot where he fought
with her. All four went to that place, and at parting they
promised never to harm him, and to put him in the
way that he would never need to do a day's work, nor
his children after him, if he had any. The eldest sister
old him to come on the following night, and to bring
John Reardon and the Sister Ghosts 131
a spade with him; she would tell him, she said, her
whole history from first to last.
He went, and what she told him was this : Long ago her
father was one of the richest men in all Ireland ; her
mother died when the three sisters were very young, and
ten or twelve years after the father died, and left the care
of all the wealth and treasures in the castle to herself,
telling her to make three equal parts of it, and to let her-
self and each of the other two sisters have one of these
parts. But she was in love with a young man unknown
to her father, and one night when the two sisters were
fast asleep, and she thought if she killed them she would
have the whole fortune for herself and her husband, she
took a knife and cut their throats, and when she had
them killed she got sorry and did the same to herself.
The sentence put on them was that none of the three
was to have rest or peace till some man, without fear
would come and conquer them, and John was the first
to attempt this.
She took him then to her father's castle — only the ruins
of it were standing, no roof and only some of the walls,
and showed where all the riches and treasures were. John,
to make sure, took his spade and dug away, dug with
what strength was in him, and just before daybreak he
came to the treasure. That moment the three sisters left
good health with him, turned into three doves, and flew
He had riches enough for himself and for seven gene^
rations after him.
( *3 2 )
MAGGIE DOYLE AND THE DEAD MAN
One day an old woman leaning on a staff and a
blind man " walked the way to me." After some talk
and delay they agreed to tell what they knew about
fairies, ghosts, and buried treasures. I had heard of
them before, and tried to secure their services. The old
woman speaks English only when forced to it, and then
very badly. The blind man has suffered peculiarly from
the fairies. They have lamed the poor fellow, taken his
eyesight, and have barely left the life in him. I shall
have occasion to refer to the man later on. The woman
told me three stories ; one of them was an incident
in her own experience, the other two concerned her
The first story has nothing supernatural in it, though
some of the actors were convinced firmly for a time that
I may say that the woman, whose name is Maggie
Doyle, was unwilling to tell tales in the daytime. It
was only after some persuasion and an extra reward
that she was induced to begin, as follows :
Long ago, when I was a fine, strong girl, not the like
of what I am this day, I went down the country with a
bag of sea-moss to sell. I was in company with a girl
Maggie Doyle and the Dead Man 133
from the next village, and she was carrying another bag.
Coming evening, the other girl found lodgings for the
night with a friend, and I walked ahead on the road for
myself. I wasn't long walking when I met a woman, and
she took me home with her. It was milking time when
we came. The woman, whose name was Peggy Driscoll,
put cream into a churn, and told me to churn while her-
self would be milking.
I churned away while she was with the cows, and when
the milking was over, she helped me, and the two of us
were churning till the butter came. She never asked me
to take a bite or a sup, not even a drink of butter-milk.
I had food of my own with me, and made a supper of
that. After supper she said : " There is a dead man above
in the room ; come with me." " Oh, God save us ! "
said I, " how is that, and who is it ? " " My own husband,
John Driscoll, and he's dead these three hours."
" God knows, then," thought I to myself, " 'tis easy
enough you are taking his death."
She brought warm water, and we went up, the two of
us ; we prepared the body of John Driscoll, dressed it,
and laid it out, and put beads in the hands of the dead
man, who was stiff and cold.
"I must go out now for a little start," said Peggy
Driscoll; "sure you'll not be in dread of the corpse
while I go to tell some of the neighbours that John is
I was that in dread that it failed me to speak to her.
134 Tales of the Fairies
The next minute she was gone and the door closed
behind her. I was left alone with the corpse. I
stopped there a while and went then to the kitchen,
sat there a quarter of an hour, and went back to the
About midnight the woman of the house walked in,
and with her a neighbouring young farmer. She made
tea in the kitchen, and the two were eating and drink-
ing for themselves with great pleasure, laughing and
joking. They were talking English. I hadn't but two
or three words of English at that time, and John
Driscoll not a word at all, but after a while the young
farmer laughed, and, forgetting himself, said in Irish :
" It's a happy woman you are this night, Peggy, and
the old man above on the table."
With that, the corpse sprang up, tumbling candles
and everything before him. He caught a pike that was
in the corner, and down to the kitchen with him. Peggy
Driscoll and the young farmer began to screech in the
way you'd think the life would leave the two of them, but
by my word they hadn't long to screech in the kitchen,
for the pike was coming at them. Out with the two
through the back door and John Driscoll at their heels.
I took my bag and away with me through the frontdoor.
I was running for hours and hurrying on. I didn't know
where was I going, till at last I met a man, and asked
what was the next town, and he said Killarney. I went
on till I came to Killarney, and sold my bag of sea-
Maggie Doyle and the Dead Man 135
moss to the first buyer, and took the road home for
" Did you go to Killarney with moss the second time?"
" I did indeed," said she. " I went the next week,
and I met a woman on the road, a cousin of John
" You told me," said I, " that you and Peggy Driscoll
laid out John on the table ; that he was stiff and cold, a
real corpse. How, then, could he rise up and run with
a pike at his wife and the young farmer? "
" It was that that frightened me," said Mrs. Doyle ;
"but this woman told me everything. John Driscoll
had a twin brother Daniel, and the two were so much
alike that no man could tell one from the other.
Peggy, John's wife, was from a distant parish, and
she didn't know that Daniel was in the world at all.
She was married to John only six months. The day
that I was passing Peggy was away with a sick woman, a
neighbour, from the morning till the middle of the after-
noon. While she was gone Daniel came to see his
brother for the first time since his marriage. He wasn't
two hours in the house when he died in one minute, as
if something pricked his heart. It was then that John
planned to make a trial of Peggy. So he put his own
clothes on Daniel, and laid the corpse on the bed above
in the room and hid under the bed himself. Peggy
put Daniel on the table, thinking that it was her own
136 Tales of the Fairies
husband she was laying out. While Peggy was gone for
the young farmer, and I was in the kitchen, John put
the corpse under the bed and went on the table him-
self. You have the whole story now."
" I suppose you can tell me a story now with a real
ghost in it," remarked I.
" Indeed, then, I can," said the old woman, " and a
true story, too. I didn't know John Doyle myself nor
his son, for they lived across the mountains from us,
and John Doyle died a few months after my marriage,
but my husband told me all about John and his son,
and my husband was a man who wouldn't tell a lie, God
rest his soul "
PAT DOYLE AND THE GHOST
There was a young man in the next parish whose name
was Pat Doyle, and one night he had to bring the priest
to his father, John Doyle. It was late when the young
man came to the priest's house. He knocked ; a servant
opened and asked what he wanted.
" The priest, for my father is dying," said Pat.
" I'll not go at this hour," said the priest, " why didn't
you come earlier ? "
Pat Doyle and the Ghost 137
" My father wasn't in danger till night, and besides I
was working far from home ; I couldn't come a minute
The priest was vexed, but he mounted his horse and
started. Pat Doyle and the clerk walked behind him.
About half-way they came to a house where whiskey was
kept, though people didn't know it generally.
"Will you wait for me here, Father?" asked Pat
" I will," said the priest, " but don't keep me waiting
Pat was barely inside when a ghost appeared behind
the priest and the clerk. The priest turned, and holding
the crucifix toward the ghost spoke and held him
" Let us be going on," said the clerk, " the young man
can come up with us."
The priest and his clerk hurried away. When Pat
Doyle came out he saw neither priest nor clerk, and ran
on after them. The road lay through boggy land, and
there, to his terror, he saw a ghost coming in flames of
fire. There was no escape at one side or another, and
young Doyle had no steel to defend himself, so the
ghost killed him there on the road.
The priest found the father alive, but stayed all night.
He was too much in dread to go home. John Doyle
grew better, but he was frightened when the son was not
coming. He asked where was Pat. They said he'd
138 Tales of the Fairies
come soon. But when he wasn't coming, the sick man
begged his own brother's sons to go for him. One of
them, Tim Doyle, was a very courageous young fellow,
and said :
" I'll find him if he's in it. Neither ghost nor devil
will keep him from me."
Tim went up to the loft, took an old sword and
knocked a shower of rust from it. He went on his
way then with his brother, and when they came to the
boggy place they saw horses prancing and running
around them and Pat racing on a grand steed.
" It is here he is," said Tim, " in place of going home
to his dying father."
But when they came to where they thought they saw
the horses, there was nothing before them but a ghost
in flames of fire. Tim made at the ghost with the sword
and said :
" Go, in the name of the devil ; you will not frighten
me." That moment the ghost disappeared, and Tim
thought that all the stone walls for ten miles around him
were tumbling, there was such a noise. They went on
and soon they came to the body of Pat Doyle. They
knelt down and examined it.
" If there is a breath in him, sure the priest will raise
him," said Tim.
They carried Pat home on their shoulders. When
they came to the house, they found him stone dead. As
soon as John Doyle heard of his son's death, life left him
Pat Doyle and the Ghost 139
All blamed the priest for not staying with Pat, and
the mother said :
" If you, Father, had stayed with him and held the
crucifix against the ghost, my poor boy would be alive
Two days after this a neighbouring boy went up to a
hillside where a herd of milch cows were grazing, and
waited there till nightfall : as he was going home across
the fields he saw three men walking, and near them
something in the form of a he-goat ; when they came
up he saw that one of the three was Pat Doyle, the
other two were boys killed by the same ghost months
The young fellow was not frightened ; he spoke up
and asked :
" Is this where you are, Pat Doyle ? Sure I thought
you were dead and buried."
" I am dead in this world," said Pat, " but I'm not
^dead in the next. I was killed by a mad ghost, and do
you go now and tell the priest from me that it was the
ghost that killed me. The priest was gone when I came
out of the house. He might have saved me as he saved
himself and the clerk, but he left me to the ghost."
The boy went to the priest and told him everything,
and the priest believed him.
My husband knew old John Doyle and Pat Doyle
before he was killed, and Tim who carried Pat home.
They were all blood relations of his.
140 Tales of the Fairies
" Perhaps Pat Doyle could have saved himself with
a steel knife or a sword," said I.
"Oh, he could," answered the old woman; "my
husband's cousin did the like one time. I will tell you
how it was."
THE GHOST OF SNEEM
Some time after Pat Doyle was killed by the ghost, my
husband, Martin Doyle, was at work on an estate at
some distance from Sneem, and one evening the gentle-
man who employed Martin told him to go that night on
an errand to Sneem.
" Well," said he, " it's too late and the road is very
lonesome. There is no one to care for my mother but
me, and if anything should happen to me she'd be with-
out support. I'll go in the morning."
"That will not do," said the gentleman : "I want to
send a letter, and it must be delivered to-night."
" I'll not risk it ; I'll not go," said Martin.
Martin had a cousin James, who heard the conversa-
tion, and, stepping up he said, "I'll go. I am not
afraid of ghost or spirit, and many a night have I spent
on that road."
The Ghost of Sneem 141
The gentleman thanked him and said :
" Here is a sword for you, if you need it." He gave
James the letter with directions for delivering it.
James started off, and took every short cut and by-
path, and when he thought he was half-way to Sneem a
ghost stood before him in the road, and began to make
at him. Whenever the ghost came near, James made a
drive at him with the steel sword, for there is great
virtue in steel, and above all in steel made by an Irish
blacksmith. The ghost was darting at James, and he
driving at the ghost with his sword till he came to a
cross-road near Sneem. There the ghost disappeared,
and James hurried on with great speed to Sneem.
There he found that the gentleman who was to receive
the letter had moved to a place six miles away, near
Blackwater bridge, half-way between Sneem and Ken-
mare. The place has a very bad name to this day, and
old people declare that there is no night without spirits
and headless people being around Blackwater bridge.
James knew what the place was, but he made up his
mind to deliver the letter. When he came to the bridge
and was going to cross it a ghost attacked him. This
ghost had a venomous look and was stronger than the
first one. He ran twice at James, who struck at him
with the sword. Just then he saw a big man without a
head running across the road at the other side of the
bridge and up the cliff, though there was no path there.
The ghost stopped attacking and ran after the headless
142 Tales of the Fairies
man. James crossed the bridge and walked a little
farther, when he met a stranger, and the two saluted
each other and the man asked James where he lived, and
he said : " I came from Drumfada." " Do you know
what time it is ? " asked James. " I do not ; but when I
was passing that house just below there the cocks were
beginning to crow. Did you see anything?" " I did,"
said James, and he told him how the ghost attacked him
and then ran away up the cliff after the headless man.
" Oh," said the stranger, " that headless body is always
roaming around the bridge at night ; hundreds of people
have seen it. It ran up the cliff and disappeared at
cock-crow, and the ghost that attacked you followed
when the cocks crowed."
The stranger went on and James delivered the letter.
The man who received it was very thankful and paid
him well. James came home safe and sound, but he
said : " I'd be a dead man this day but for the steel."
" Could you tell me a real fairy tale ? " asked I of the
"I could," said she, a but to-day I'll tell you only
what I saw one night beyond Cahirciveen :
Once I spent the night at a house near Waterville,
about six miles from Derrynane. The woman of the
house was lying in bed at the time and a young child
with her. The husband heard an infant crying outside
under the window, and running to the bed he said :
The Ghost of Sneem 143
" Yerra, Mary* have you the child with you ? "
" Indeed, then, I have, John."
"Well, I heard a child crying under the window. I'll
go this minute and see whose it is."
" In the name of God," screamed the wife, " stop
inside! Get the holy water and sprinkle it over the
children and over me and yourself."
He did this, and then sprinkled some in the kitchen.
He heard the crying go off farther and farther till it
seemed half a mile away : it was very pitiful and sad.
If he had gone to the door the man of the house would
have got a fairy stroke and the mother would have been
taken as a nurse to the fort.
This is all the old woman told. When going she
promised to come on the following day, but I have not
seen her since. The blind man informed me some
evenings later that she was sick and in the " ashpitl "
(hospital). Her sickness was caused, as she said, by
telling me tales in the daytime. Many of the old people
will tell tales only in the evening ; it is not right, not
lucky, to do so during daylight.
( 144 )
THE DEAD MOTHER
The next two tales were told by the blind man whom I
have mentioned in connection with fairy tales told at
It is not out of place to refer here to a certain popular
error. It is supposed by many persons that women are
the chief depositories of tales touching fairies and other
extra-human characters, but they are not. It is a rare
thing to find a woman in possession of wonderful tales
of the best quality. During researches extending over
a number of years, I have found among Indians in the
United States only one woman who could be classed
with the very best tale-tellers. In Ireland I have
found few women who can tell tales at all, and none
who can compare with the best men. I believe this is
so in all countries.
The two following stories testify to a perfect commu-
nication at times between this world and another.
There was a girl in Cloghane whose name was Mary
Shea. She married and had three children, one son and
two daughters. Her husband died; then his people
turned against her and began to quarrel with the widow.
Mary was a quiet, good woman, and didn't like trouble.
So she told her brother-in-law that if he would give her
The Dead Mother 145
money to go to America with her two girls she would
give up the bit of land that she had and leave the little
boy with himself till she would send for him.
The brother-in-law and the other friends made up the
money, and she went away and was doing well in
America for about twelve months, and then she took a
fever and died.
The very same week that the mother died the girls
sent money home for their brother. They wanted to
send it while the mother was sick, but they waited to
know would she get better. But she died and was
About two weeks after the woman's death a girl in
Cloghane was going one evening to Castlegregory for
sea-moss. Walking along, she saw a woman ahead,
and hurried on to have company and shorten the road
for herself. The woman ahead seemed in no hurry and
The girl spoke, and as they walked along the woman
asked where was she going, and she told her. " Do you
know me ? " asked the woman.
" I do not," said the girl, " but I think I have seen
, " Didn't you know Mary Fitzgerald ? "
" Oh, I did ; and when did you come home ? "
"About two weeks ago."
"Isn't it the wonder that your mother in Cloghane
doesn't know you are here ? "
146 Tales of the Fairies
"I was in Cloghane," said she, "and saw them all,
and 'tis badly they are treating my little boy, but 'twill
not be long that way; he will go to his sisters in
America. I died two weeks ago, but don't be in dread
of me, for I'll do you no harm. I wanted you to speak
to me, so I could tell you what to do. When you go
home to-morrow go to my mother and tell her that I
died in America, and that you saw me on this strand,
that I am walking back and forth perishing with the
cold. Tell her to buy a pair of shoes and stockings and
give them to some poor person in my name, for God's
Mary was talking a long time to the girl, arid the girl
promised to go to the mother.
It seems that whatever Mary's son did his uncle
whipped him, and the boy was crying in the daytime and
crying at night in bed, the night that Mary came first to
Cloghane. Everybody in the house was silent except
the boy, and he was crying. The mother walked in,
bent over him, laid her hand on his shoulder and said,
"Don't be crying, my poor little boy, you'll be with
your sisters very soon. You'll not see your mother any
more, but you'll be happy without her."
He sat up in the bed, knew her, and grasping at her
let such a screech out of him that it roused the uncle
and grandmother, and he told them what he'd seen.
Next day a letter came from America with news of
he mother's death. Just after, the girl came to the
Tim Sheehy 147
house and was telling about the shoes the letter was
The mother bought a pair of shoes and gave them to
a poor woman, for God's sake and the good of Mary's
soul, and Mary was seen on the strand no more after
TIM SHEEHY SENT BACK TO THIS
WORLD TO PROVE HIS INNOCENCE
TOLD BY WILLIAM KEATING
There was a farmer, fourteen miles from Tralee, named
Fitzgerald, who, by sly management and being a spy
on his neighbours, became a great friend of the landlord.
He carried matters that far that at last he got small
tenants enough ejected to give him the grass of forty
cows. Within his bounds was a sub-tenant of the name
of Tim Sheehy, and Fitzgerald was very anxious to have
this man ejected. He made complaints to the landlord.
He said Sheehy was poaching and destroying game, and
said this and that of him.
The landlord didn't believe these complaints, for Sheehy
and his father before him were honest men, who paid
their rent always. At last, by some chance, Fitzgerald's
148 Tales of the Fairies
cow-house was burned down one night and ten cows
were destroyed in the fire. A great many suspected Tim
Sheehy. What they said was that Tim owed Fitzgerald
a spite, and sure who else would be burning the cow-
house ? Fitzgerald was only too willing to take up the
story and spread it.
There was a woman in the village by the name of
Kate Pendy, who had her own opinion, and she gave it :
"Wisha, then, a ghraghil,"* said she to a friend.
" Tim Sheehy is as clear of that as God Himself. There
is no fear that that poor, honest man burned the cow-
This was Saturday, and Tim Sheehy was in Tralee on
some business that he had, and he didn't come home
till the following morning. When he was nearing the
chapel and Mass just over, crowds were around, and he
heard a man say: "There goes Tim Sheehy, who
burned Fitzgerald's cow-house and ran away : I wonder
what's bringing him back ? "
" Sure, 'tis the finger of God," said a second man.
" The Lord wouldn't let another be punished in place of
Sheehy hung his head and was cut to the heart at
these words. He went home, and whether it was from
grief or sickness that he died, 'twas unknown, but he
died that very day. When he was washed and ready
to be laid on the table the wife sent to a neighbouring
* Gradhghil, voc. of gradhgeal, white love, darling
Tim She eh y 149
woman, a cousin of Fitzgerald, for the loan of sheets to
hang over the table and the corpse. The woman
refused to lend the sheets. " I'll not give them," said
she; "the divil mend Sheehy, he * ruined my poor
The boy went home without the sheets, and Mrs.
Sheehy found them at another house. A deal of people
met at the wake-house; they sat down and began to
smoke and tell stories, as people do always at wakes.
What was their surprise at midnight when Tim Sheehy
sat up on the table and began to speak to them,
" Friends and neighbours," said he, " ye needn't be in
dread of me ; I'll not harm any person here present. It
wasn't I that burned the cow-house. The man who did
that is beyond the mountain at this time. People broke
my heart, killed me with false accusations, but I got
leave to return and tell you of my innocence and take
the stain from my children." Sheehy was talking on,
and would have said a deal more but for an old woman,
Nancy Brady, who was sitting in the corner, and a wide
ruffled white cap on her. She rose up. "Tim, my
darling," said she, " did you see my mother?"
Sheehy looked at her fiercely. " Bad luck to you, you
hag," said he, " I did, and she is now what she was in
life, a tale-bearing disturber, and dishonest. She goes
about milking the neighbours' cows when she thinks
nobody is looking at her, just as she used to do in this
world." Tim Sheehy turned then to the people : " I can
150 Tales of the Fairies
say no more, as I was interrupted by this woman."
With that he dropped back dead and speechless.
All the people in it were cursing Nancy Brady because
she wouldn't stop quiet till they could hear what Tim
Sheehy had to tell about the other world.
TOM MOORE AND THE SEAL WOMAN
Apropos of the following tale, I may say: The inter-
marriage with and descent of men from beings not
human touches upon one of the most interesting and
important points in primitive belief. Totemism among
savage races in our day, and descent from the gods in
antiquity, are the best examples of this belief; derived
from it, in all probability, but remotely, are family escut-
cheons with their animals and birds and the emblematic
beasts and birds of nations, such as the Roman eagle,
the British lion, the American eagle, the Russian bear.
The Roman eagle and the wolf which suckled Romulus
may have been totems, if not for the Romans, at least for
some earlier people. The lion, eagle, and bear of
England, America, and Russia are of course not totemic,
though adopted in imitation of people who, if they had
not totems, had as national emblems birds or beasts that
Tom Moore and the Seal Woman 151
at some previous period were real totems for some social
There is a tale in Scotland concerning people of the
clan MacCodrum, who were seals in the daytime, but
mea and woman at night. No man of the MacCodrums,
it is said, would kill a seal. The MacCodrums are
mentioned in Gaelic as " Clann Mhic Codruim nan r6n "
(Clan MacCodrum of the seals).
In the village of Kilshanig, two miles north-east of
Castlegregory, there lived at one time a fine, brave young
man named Tom Moore, a good dancer and singer.
'Tis often he was heard singing among the cliffs and in
the fields of a night.
Tom's father and mother died and he was alone in
the house and in need of a wife. One morning early,
when he was at work near the strand, he saw the finest
woman ever seen in that part of the kingdom, sitting on
a rock, fast asleep. The tide was gone from the rocks
then, and Tom was curious to know who was she or
what brought her, so he walked toward the rock.
"Wake up !" cried Tom to the woman; "if the tide
comes 'twill drown you."
She raised her head and only laughed. Tom left her
there, but as he was going he turned every minute to
look at the woman. When he came back he caught the
spade, but couldn't work ; he had to look at the beautiful
woman on the rock. At last the tide swept over the
152 Tales of the Fairies
rock. He threw the spade down and away to the strand ,
with him, but she slipped into the sea and he saw no
more of her that time.
Tom spent the day cursing himself for not taking the
woman from the rock when it was God that sent her to
him. He couldn't work out the day. He went home.
Tom could not sleep a wink all that night. He was
up early next morning and went to the rock. The
woman was there. He called to her.
No answer. He went up to the rock. " You may as
well come home with me now," said Tom. Not a word
from the woman. Tom took the hood from her head
and said, " I'll have this ! "
The moment he did that she cried : " Give back my
hood, Tom Moore ! "
" Indeed I will not, for 'twas God sent you to me, and
now that you have speech I'm well satisfied ! And
taking her by the arm he led her to the house. The
woman cooked breakfast, and they sat down together to
" Now," said Tom, "in the name of God you and I'll
go to the priest and get married, for the neighbours
around here are very watchful ; they'd be talking." So
after breakfast they went to the priest, and Tom asked
him to marry them.
" Where did you get the wife ? " asked the priest.
Tom told the whole story. When the priest saw Tom
was so anxious to marry he charged £$, and Tom paid
Tom Moore and the Seal Woman 153
the money. He took the wife home with him, and
she was good a woman as ever went into adman's house.
She lived with Tom seven years, and had three sons and
One day Tom was ploughing, and some part of the
plough rigging broke. He thought there were bolts on
the loft at home, so he climbed up to get them. He
threw down bags and ropes while he was looking for the
bolts, and what should he throw down but the hood
which he took from the wife seven years before. She
saw it the moment it fell, picked it up, and hid it. At
that time people heard a great seal roaring out in the
"Ah," said Tom's wife, "that's my brother looking
Some men who were hunting killed three seals that
day. All the women of the village ran down to the
strand to look at the seals, and Tom's wife with others.
She began to moan, and going up to the dead seals she
spoke some words to each and then cried out, " Oh, the
murder ! "
When they saw her crying the men said : We'll have
nothing more to do with these seals." So they dug a
great hole, and the three seals were put into it and
covered. But some thought in the night : " 'Tis a great
shame to bury those seals, after all the trouble in taking
them." Those men went with shovels and dug up the
earth, but found no trace of the seals.
1 54 Tales of the Fairies
All this time the big seal in the sea was roaring.
Next day when Tom was at work his wife swept the
house, put everything in order, washed the children and
combed their hair ; then, taking them one by one, she
kissed each. She went next to the rock, and, putting the
hood on her head, gave a plunge. That moment the
big seal rose and roared so that people ten miles away
could hear him.
Tom's wife went away with the seal swimming in the
sea. All the five children that she left had webs between
their fingers and toes, half-way to the tips.
The descendants of Tom Moore and the seal woman
are living near Castlegregory to this day, and the webs
are not gone yet from between their fingers and toes,
though decreasing with each generation.
THE FOUR-LEAFED SHAMROCK
This tale gives a good instance of the virtue of the four-
leafed shamrock against the power which takes people's
eyes — i.e., true vision — from them :
A good many years ago a showman came to the town
of Dingle and performed many tricks there. At one
time he'd eat a dozen straws and then pull yards of
The Four-Leafed Shamrock 155
ribbon from his throat The strangest thing he showed
was a game-cock that he used to harness to a great log
Men, women, and children were breaking their bones,
running to see the cock, and he a small bird, drawing-
such a great weight of timber. One day, when the
showman was driving the cock on the road toward
Brandon Mountain, he met a man with a bundle of
fresh grass on his back. The man was astonished to see
crowds running after a cock dragging one straw behind
" You fool," said the people, " don't you see the cock
drawing a log of timber, and it would fail any horse to
draw the like of it ? "
"Indeed, then, I do not. I see the cock dragging
a straw behind him, and sure I've seen the like many
a time in my own place."
Hearing this, the showman knew that there was some-
thing in the grass, and going over to the man he asked
what price was he asking for the bundle. The man
didn't wish to sell the grass, but at last he parted with it for
eighteen pence. The showman gave the grass to his boy
and told him to go aside and drop it into the river. The
boy did that, and when the bundle went down with the
stream the man was as big a fool as another; he ran
after the cock with the crowd.
That evening the same man was telling a friend how
at first he saw the cock with a straw behind him, and
156 Tales of the Fairies
then saw him drawing a great log of wood. " Oh, you
fool ! " said the friend, " there was a foiir-leafed shamrock
in your bundle of grass, while you had the shamrock it
kept every enchantment and devilment from you, and
when you parted with it, you became as big a fool as
JOHN COKELEY AND THE FAIRY
The burial customs of Ireland are very interesting be-
cause they throw light on beliefs concerning another life —
beliefs that were once universal on the island and are held
yet in a certain way by a good many people. There is
much variety in the burial customs of the whole country,
but I can refer only to one or two details which are
observed carefully in the peninsula west of Killarney.
When the coffin is ready to be taken to the grave the
lid is nailed down, but when it is at the edge of the grave
the nails are drawn and placed one across another on the
lid, which is left unfastened.
In arranging the corpse in the coffin the feet are
generally fastened together to keep them in position.
This is done frequently by pinning the stockings to each
other ; but however done, the fastening is removed before
John Cokeley and the Fairy 157
burial and the feet are left perfectly free. The corpse is
not bound in any way or confined in the coffin. That it
is held necessary to free the feet of the corpse is shown
by what happened once in Cahirciveen. A man died and
his widow forgot to remove the pins fastening his stock-
ings to each other. The voice of the dead man came to
the woman on the night after the funeral, telling her that
his feet were bound, and to free them. Next day she had
the grave opened, took the pins from the stockings, and
left the feet untrammelled.
It is believed as firmly by some people that the dead
rise from their graves time after time, each by himself
independently, as it is by others that all men will rise ages
hence at one call and be judged for their deeds simul-
taneously. Besides the separate movements of each dead
person we have the great social apparition on the night of
All Saints, when the dead come to the houses of their
friends and sit by the fire, unseen of all save those who
are to die within the coming year. In view of this visit
a good fire is made, the room is swept carefully, and
prayers are repeated.
When I inquired why the nails were drawn from the
coffin and bonds removed from the corpse with such care,
some persons said that it was an old superstition, others
that it was an old custom, and others still that it was done
to give the dead man his freedom.
In the following tale, that relating to John Cokeley, we
have a good instance of punishment by fairies. The head
158 Tales of the Fairies
and front of John's offending was that he stopped the
passage against the fairies. The first result of that act
was a slight attack of illness, the second his removal to
another world, which, though invisible to all between
sunrise and sunset, and visible between sunset and sunrise
to few only, is right here on earth. Cokeley's place in
the house is held by a fairy substitute with a ravenous
appetite, a sour temper, and a sharp tongue, the usual
qualities of such an agent.
I know one old man who has an afflicted daughter, and
who believes firmly that she has been put in his house by
the fairies ; he thinks that his own daughter was taken
away and this creature given to him. This one has the
" tongue of an attorney," while his daughter was a " quiet,
The crowning proofs that Cokeley was taken by
the fairies are that he was seen repeatedly after sunset,
and the sick man refused before his death to see the
In the tale of Tom Foley there is no real ghost,
but there is strong evidence of a general and firm
belief that ghosts go among men and are active on
There was a farmer in the parish of Firez whose name
was John Cokeley. John was a great man for every
kind of new information, and would go a long way of
an evening to hear people read newspapers, but he
John Cokeley and the Fairy 159
didn't give in to stories or to what old people used
Cokeley thought the house he had too small and
wanted to put an addition to it. There was an old
passage at one end of the house, and it's there he was
going to build the addition. John had a gossip who
used to go with the fairies, and this man passed the way
when he was beginning the work.
" What's that you are doing ? " asked the gossip.
" Don't you see what I am doing ? " said Cokeley.
" Couldn't you put the addition to the other end of the
house and leave this one alone ? "
" That wouldn't suit me," answered John.
"You should leave the passage open so that every
one could travel through it by day, and especially by
" That's foolish talk," said Cokeley.
"Very well," said the gossip, "you think so I sup-
pose, but my word for it, you may be sorry in the
Cokeley finished the addition, and left a little hole in
the wall near the fireplace, and it was there he kept his
pipe and tobacco. One night on going to bed he put an
ounce of tobacco in the hole (there was no one smoking
in the house but himself). In the morning there was no
bit of the tobacco left, but in place of it the price, three-
pence-ha'penny. He took great notice of that. A few
weeks later he rose from his bed in the night and heard a
160 Tales of the Fairies
great noise of horsemen outside. He opened the door
and looked out, but if he did he saw nothing. He went
to bed again, and wasn't long there when he began to
be sore and feel very sick in himself. The gossip came
to see him next day: "Well, John," said he, "you feel
" I do," said Cokeley.
" You had a right to stop in bed."
"How well you know of that," said Cokeley.
"I do ; that much could not be done unknown to me.
When you turned back from the door last night there was
a crowd between you and the bed as big as at any fair.
They gave you only a warning this time, and you'll
In a few weeks' time Cokeley was looking well again,
but he got downhearted, took to drinking, and spent his
means, so that at last he hadn't any cows on his land but
what belonged to others. One May-day in the evening
he was going to a neighbour's to collect grazing money
that was due to him. When about three-quarters of the
way — and the time was after sunset — a woman appeared
opposite and took a great fall out of him. He was thrown
on his face in the middle of the road and struck senseless.
In half an hour he recovered, rose, and walked on ; after
going a short distance he was knocked a second time,
and soon after he got the third fall. Cokeley didn't
know for a full hour where he was ; he hadn't his senses.
When he came to himself he was in the middle of the
John Cokeley and the Fairy 161
road ; he crawled to the side of it, then rose and went for
his money. He didn't tell the man what had happened,
made no delay, but hurried home and went to bed. He
felt the strength parting from his body in the night, and
was without any power to move next morning. His wife
ran to doctors for cures, but no use for her. In a month's
time all the neighbours said that Cokeley was fairy struck,
and there was no cure. The wife went one day to
Killarney, where she met the gossip.
" John is very bad again," said the gossip.
"He is," said she. " There is no one to do good for
him if you don't."
" Oh, well," said the gossip, " I have a son of my own
to assist, and he is nearer to me than what John is ; I must
look out for myself. John was struck very severely, and
he may thank himself for it. He was not said by me, or
he wouldn't have built in the passage, and wouldn't be
where he is to-day. This is all the cure I can give you :
Go home, get a tub of water, and bathe John nine nights
with the one water, one night after another. When you
have that done you'll not throw out the water till
after midnight, when all are in bed. Take care that
no one of your family is out of the house that night."
When John's wife was in the road coming home a man
of the neighbours overtook her and they walked on
together. There was a height within one mile of the
house, from this they had a fine view of Cokeley's house
and land — the time was after sunset — and to their
162 Tales of the Fairies
surprise they saw John himself walking around in the
garden as well and strong as ever, but when the wife
came home she found him in bed sick and miserable.
" Were you out since morning, John ? " asked she.
He only began to scold and look bitter at her.
" How could a dead man leave the bed ? " said he.
She prepared the tub of water in the corner of the
house that day, and was bathing him for nine nights in
the same water. She had a son fifteen or sixteen years
of age who wasn't at home. He spent a night out very
often, for he was working for people. She didn't think
the boy would come that time, it was so late (about one
o'clock in the morning). She began to throw out the
water with a gallon.* There was a big flag outside the
door ; she threw the water on that. She had all out but
the last gallon, when who should come but the son.
When he stepped on the flag he was thrown heels over
head and his leg broken. There was no doctor nearer
than Killarney, When the mother went there next day
she met the gossip.
"Well, said he, "you are worse now than ever.
Didn't I tell you not to throw out that water when there
was any one away from the house ? "
" He slept out so often " said the mother, " that I was
sure he wouldn't come that night."
" You may thank your friends and neighbours (of the
other world) for being so strong, or your son's brains
* A vessel for dipping water ; it holds a few quarts.
John Cokeley and the Fairy 163
would be knocked out on that flag. He'll not be long
recovering. The washing did no good to John, but he'll
not leave you yet ; he's very far back in the ranks. He
will not go from you till he'll be the front man. Don't
take too much care of him ; he'll rob you."
When a neighbour came in the sick man had a
tongue for any attorney, complaining of the wife, saying
that she was only starving him. He would eat nothing
from the poor woman but the best meat, butter and
eggs; he should get a pint of whiskey every day.
Every day he should be placed in a chair and brought to
the fire between two persons. By looking at him you'd
think there was nothing amiss with • the man ; besides,
he had such an appetite and such a tongue for
Soon the neighbours stopped coming, and didn't
inquire. They used to see John Cokeley walking about
the farm after sunset and before sunrise ; they thought he
was well again. This went on about four years, and the
gossip who used to be with the fairies left this world
In the latter end the wife couldn't give the sick man
what food he wanted, and he was raging ; he kept the
appetite all the 'time. She had a third cousin, a priest,
and the priest came to see her.
" Oh, father, can't you do some good for my husband
Myself and my poor children are beggared from
164 Tales of the Fairies
" It isn't in my power to do good to that man," said
the priest. " You must leave him there till he is taken
She told how the husband abused her, what a tongue
"Don't give him another tint of whiskey," said the
priest, " nor meat, nor eggs. Give him what you and
your children have."
The man gave a bitter look at the priest. The priest
gave a good morning and went home. After this the
poor woman put no food before him but such as she and
the children used. He was pining away and hadn't half
the speech he had before, but he called her all the
names he could think of. If he could have killed her
It continued on in this way till one month before
seven years were out, he pining, she breaking her heart
This month he was sleeping all the time. They knew
there was a change coming.
One midnight they heard a great crowd racing around
the house, a noise of horses and people about the cross-
road, and hurricanes of wind with terrible noises.
" Ah, I'll be going home soon," said he on the follow-
ing morning, " I'm not sorry to leave you."
" Would you like to have a priest, John ? " asked the
" What would I do with a priest, woman ? "
Tom Foley's Ghost 165
The uproar continued three nights. On the third
-evening he asked to eat — said he was starved. She gave
him plenty of what she had and he ate willingly, without
any word at all from him. Herself and son and the little
family, five altogether, were talking, and in an hour's
time, when they didn't hear any sound from him,
they went to the bed and found that it's dead he
was, and they were not sorry after him ; and sure why
should they, for it wasn't John Cokeley that was in it
TOM FOLEY'S GHOST
There was a man Tom Foley, a farmer who lived at
Castlemain, near the Leann River ; he had a brother
John, who lived eight miles beyond Tralee, on a farm of
his own which he had there. The Leann is a great river
for fishing ; above all, when the weather is favourable.
Tom Foley went fishing once on a cloudy day when
it was raining a little. There was a great rise of fish in
the river, and Tom was killing a power of them that
The place where Tom was fishing was about seven
fields from his house without being in sight of it. The
main road was very near the river, and Tom wasn't above
1 66 Tales of the Fairies
an hour killing fish when a man came the way on horse-
back, and when he saw Foley on the bank he made
" Is your name Tom Foley ? " asked the man.
" It is/ said Tom.
" Have you a brother named John ? "
" I have."
" Well, your brother is dead ; he got a sudden death
yesterday. I am his servant man, and I was sent by
John's wife to say that you are wanted at the house with-
" You'd better not go back to-day," said Tom to the
man. "There is a great rise of fish in this river; I
haven't seen the like since I was born. Stop fishing
here after me ; you'll have time enough for the funeral
" Leave your overcoat with me," said the man, " and
Tom gave his overcoat to the man and said, " I'll not
mind going home. The clothes I have on will do very
well, and do you take what fish I killed and what you'll
kill yourself to my house : you'll find the road to it
Tom mounted his horse and rode off. The servant
man, who was of Tom's size, put on the coat and was
fishing away for a few hours, when, whatever way it
happened, he fell into the river and was drowned.
There were two other fishermen on the bank of the
Tom Foley's Ghost 167
river at a distance from Tom. They didn't see the horse
coming nor the servant man changind places with Foley,
and they thought it was Tom was in it all the time.
After a while they looked again, but if they did, they got
no sight of a man on the bank.
" It seems Tom has gone home." said one of the men ;
" there is no rise of fish here, and 111 go fishing the river
down before me."
He went down till he came to where Foley's bag of
fish was. He knew then that it was not home he went.
So he looked into the water, and what should he see but
the body at the bottom of the river and Tom Foley's
coat on it. He screeched out to the other man then,
saying that Tom Foley was drowned.
The other man came and stayed in the place, while
the first went with an account to the house and told Tom's
wife, Mary, that her husband was drowned in the river.
Mary began to screech and lament in a way you'd think
the life would leave her. The man ran and collected the
neighbours, and went with them and Mary Foley to bring
home the corpse.
When the people raised the body from the river, they
found the face all eaten by eels : no one could know
that it was Tom Foley was in it but for the coat.
Mary began to moan and lament now at sight of the
body. "Oh," cried she, "Tom aghraghil, you're gone
from me ; how can I live without you now. Oh, Tom,
my darling, why did you leave me ? "
1 68 Tales of the Fairies
It would bring the tears to any man's eyes to look
at poor Mary Foley, and her heart nearly breaking.
The neighbours took the body home, and there was
a great wake in the Foleys' house that night. The
neighbouring women comforted Mary the best way they
" Don't be flying in the face of God, my dear," said one
old woman ; " sure nothing happens in the whole world
without the will of the Almighty. It was the Lord took
your husband, and you should bear the loss and be
resigned ; the Lord will reward you."
Next day there was a great funeral, for Tom had many
friends and relations. The parish priest himself went to
the funeral ; he didn't send the curate.
The graveyard was four miles from Tom's village, and
on the road home Mary Foley and her three brothers
stopped at a public-house, half-way. They were tired,
hungry, and dry; in need of refreshment. Mary's
brothers had a friend of theirs with them, a man who
lived two villages away — a fine, able, strong fellow,
and he sat down with the company.
When they had eaten a bite and taken some drink for
themselves, Mary was complaining of her lonely condition,
and the tears coming out of her eyes. " How am I to
live without Tom ? " asked she. " Sure everybody will
be robbing me. I'll be beggared unless ye do something
to help me."
" Yerra, woman, how are we to help you ? " said the
Tom Foley's Ghost 169
oldest brother. " We have all we can do to mind our
" That's true for you," said the second brother, " but
still and all we can mend the trouble. There is no way
for you, Mary," said he, turning to the sister, "but to
marry, and the sooner you marry the better. Servant-
men will neglect your work ; they'll only be taking your
money, and eating, and drinking all before them. It's
not long you'll have a roof over your head, if it's
depending on servant-men you'll be. You must marry,
and the sooner the better."
With that the company had another glass.
" Now, Mary," said the brother, " here is the man for
you to marry — John Garvey, a friend of mine, and you
couldn't find a better husband if you were to wait ten
years for him."
Mary started up against the brother, and wasn't it
a shame for him, she said, to be scandalising her with
his talk, and wouldn't it be fitter for him to have some
respect for his only sister. The other brothers helped
this one now, and the end of the whole matter was that
before they left the public-house the match was made
between John Garvey and Mary.
" Follow my advice, Mary," said the eldest brother ;
" go straight to the priest's house and be married offhand :
sure there's no good in waiting."
" Wouldn't it be a shame before all the neighbours for
me to marry on the day of my first husband's funeral ? "
170 Tales of the Fairies
"Sure the neighbours needn't know that you are
married. Let them think that John is in service with
" The priest wouldn't marry us," said Mary, " if we
" Believe me, he'll marry you if you pay him well/'
said the brother.
Whether in her heart Mary was willing or not, no one
knew, but she consented. " Have no fear," said the
brothers ; " no one will know anything of the marriage
but the priest and ourselves."
They went to the priest's house, and when all were
inside, the servant-girl went up to the priest and said
that Mrs. Foley was below in the kitchen. The priest
came. He said he was very sorry for her loss, and
asked what could he do for her ? what was it brought her ?
" Oh, father," said she, " I am in a very bad way
as I am. Every one will be striving to rob me, and
nobody to do my work. My brothers tell me that if 111
be said by them I'll marry, and I'm thinking to follow
their advice, and it's that that brought me."
" Oh, you villain of a woman, to marry a second time
on the day of your first husband's funeral ! "
" Don't blame me, father," said Mary ; " maybe you'd
have another mind from what you have if you were
in my place. Sure no one need be the wiser. Marry
me to this man here, John Garvey, and I'll give you three
Tom Foley's Ghost 171
" I will not take it from you," said the priest.
" Well, father, I'll give you all the money I have in
my pocket : I'll give you five pounds."
" I'll not marry you," said the priest.
With that, one of the brothers took Mary aside and
said : " Say that you'll give him the big pig you have as
well as the money."
"Well, father," said Mary, "with the five pounds
I'll give you a fat pig that'll keep you in bacon for a
Now one of the brothers spoke up: "There is no
need of publishing the marriage at present. People
will think that John Garvey is in service with my
The priest wanted to refuse, and was opening his
mouth, but the first word wasn't out when the curate
took him aside and said :
" Why not marry the poor woman ? Marry her. No
one will be the worse for it, and no one the wiser ; and,
besides, you'll have a supply of fine bacon."
The priest consented at last. One of the brothers
and the priest's own servant-girl were the witnesses, and
nobody knew a word of what happened. Mary Foley
that was — she was Mary Garvey now — paid the five
pounds, left good health with the priest, and was thank-
ful to him. Herself and her new husband went home
and the brothers went to their own houses. There was
no one before the young couple but the servant-girl and
172 Tales of the Fairies
Tom Foley's mother. The old woman was surprised
when she saw John Garvey, and wondered what brought
him on the evening of Tom's funeral.
Mary sent the servant-girl about a mile away on an
errand, and when the girl was gone she turned to Garvey
and said :
" Well, John, bring your sister to-morrow to work for
me, and I'll not delay you any longer."
With that John turned away and Mary went with Foley's
mother to an outhouse. While they were gone, Garvey
went back, walked into his wife's room, shut the door, and
stopped inside. After a time the servant girl came home
and went to bed in her own place, and the poor old
mother was left alone at the hearth, lamenting and
mourning for her son dead and buried.
When the light was out and all was still and quiet,
about ten o'clock, Tom Foley came home, after burying
his brother. He tried to open the door. It was bolted ;
he knocked. The mother went to the door, and when
she heard Tom's voice she was frightened and asked
what was troubling his soul, to say that he'd come back
from the other world after being buried that day.
" Oh, mother," said Foley, " open the door and leave
" I will not," said the mother. " You cannot come in,
my son ; but tell me what is troubling your soul. I'll
have Masses said for you and give alms."
Foley was very tired after the journey, and couldn't
Tom Foley's Ghost 173
stop at the door any longer. He went to the barn ;
there was a large heap of straw in one end of it, and four
or five pigs with the big pig at the other end. Foley lay
down in the straw and soon he was asleep.
During the evening the parish priest began to be in
dread that the woman might change her mind ; now that
she was married she might put the pig aside and he'd be
left without his bacon. So he called his servant-boy
and told him to bring the big pig from Mrs. Foley's.
The boy took a whip and went to Tom's house for
the pig. He knew well where was the barn and where
was the pig. When he came to the barn he went in and
stirred up the pigs ; they began to screech and make a
great noise. The big pig being so bulky and strong,
wouldn't go out, and Foley woke up with the screeching.
He looked around to know what was troubling the pigs, and
saw the boy striving to take the big one away with him.
Tom was in very bad humour, so he made after the boy
and gave him a good blow in the back with a wattle,
and asked, is it stealing he was at that hour of the
The boy was knocked, but if he was, he rose
quickly and away with him like the wind. He ,
didn't get another blow, though he had three or four
falls from fright before he reached the priest's house,
thinking that Foley was after him. When he went
in there was terror in his heart. The priest asked, did
he bring the pig so soon ? He said he didn't bring the
174 Tales of the Fairies
pig, and he couldn't, for Tom Foley was minding the
place as well as if he wasn't buried at all.
" What's that you tell me ? " asked the priest.
" Oh, father, sure when I went to bring the pig Tom
Foley was inside in the straw. The pigs made a noise,
and he ran after me with a big wattle and asked why was
I disturbing his pigs at that hour of the night. He gave
me a blow in the back and knocked me on the road. I
got three or four other falls from fright before I came
" Yerra, go, my boy, and bring me the pig. It's some
stranger that's in it; it's thieving he is. If you don't
bring the pig to-night, maybe we won't have him to bring
"Whatever you do, father, or whatever will happen
the pig, I won't face Foley a second time," said the
The priest called a small boy that he had herding, and
said, " Go you and bring the big pig from Foley's."
" I'll go if somebody goes with me."
" Oh, I'll go with him," said the curate's brother, who
happened to be visiting him. " I know the place, and I
knew Tom Foley."
The two went off together, and the curate's brother
stopped a couple of fields away from Foley's house.
The boy went on, and when he began to drive out the
big pig, the pig made a noise that woke Foley a second
time, and he went after this boy more venomously than
Tom Foley's Ghost 175
after the first one. The boy ran with his life to the field
where the curate's brother was. Foley had to turn back,
and didn't catch him. The curate's brother saw Foley
hunting the boy, and knew that 'twas no lie for the first
boy, that the ghost was in it. The two hurried home with
what strength was in their legs.
"Oh, then, Foley's ghost is there as sure as I am
standing before you," said the brother to the curate in
presence of the priest.
On the following morning Foley rose out of the barn
drowsy and queer after the night. The door of his house
was closed and he had no chance of going in. " I will go
to first Mass," thought Tom, "with the clothes I have
on; Mary will be up before me when I come home,
I can sleep the remainder of the day and take a good
Whenever a man going the way saw Foley he left the
road to him and ran through the field. Foley didn't
know why people were leaving the road to him. When
he went into the chapel all made a rush towards the altar.
The priest, who came out at the moment, asked the
peoplewhat a iled them.
"Oh, God between us and harm," said one, "Tom
Foley is here from the other world."
The priest called Foley by name, and asked, was he
"Why ^shouldn't I be here, father? Don't you see
176 Tales of the Fairies
" Tell me, in the name of God, where did you come
from ? " asked the priest.
"Where would I come from," said Foley, "but from
my own house ? "
" Sure the whole parish knows that you were drowned,"
said the priest, " and buried yesterday. Wasn't I at your
funeral myself? "
"Well, then, you and the whole parish were mistaken,"
said Foley. " I buried my brother John yesterday eight
miles beyond Tralee."
" And who was the man that was drowned ? " asked the
" I left my brother's servant-man here fishing instead of
myself. Maybe he was drowned and the people buried
him. I know well that they didn't bury me."
The priest stepped out and called the curate, and told
him that Foley wasn't dead at all. " Do you hurry now
to Tom's house," said he, "and tell John Garvey to be off
with himself, that Foley is alive and will be home very
soon, and when Garvey is gone tell Mrs. Foley that I'll
come with Tom after first Mass, and to be ready for
The curate hurried away, and the priest went in to
Foley. "Your wife may not believe that you are not
dead," said he. "I will go with you after Mass and tell
her that you are not dead at all."
" I knew," said Tom, " that there was something
wrong. It was late last night when I came home. My
Tom Foley's Ghost 177
wife was in bed, no one up before me but my mother, and
she wouldn't open the door for me, but began to ask what
was troubling my soul. She said to tell her, and she
would give alms and have Mass said for me. Now I
know why this was."
" It will be the same with her to-day," said the priest.
" I'll go to the house with you."
The two went to the house after Mass. When Mary
Foley saw Tom she dropped on the bench and looked as
though she'd die from fright.
" Don't be afraid," said the priest. " It wasn't Tom
that was buried but his brother's servant-man."
Tom told the wife how he gave the loan of his coat to
the servant-man and went to bury his brother John.
The wife was satisfied now. The priest took her aside,
and told her to have no trouble of mind on account of
what she had done by getting married.
"You meant no harm," said he, "but no one in the
world must know a word about it. You and I will keep
our own — do you keep the big pig and I'll keep my five
The following curious story reminds one a little of
Slav tales of dead men who dwell in their tombs as in
houses. Some of the Slav tomb-dwellers are harmless,
others malignant. The malignant ones are dead persons
who rise up bodily and go around at night devouring
people. When one of these has eaten a victim he
178 Tales of the Fairies
rushes back to his grave, for he is obliged to remain
wherever he may be at cock-crow ; if outside his grave,
he falls stiff and helpless to lie there till the next night.
There are two ways of giving a quietus to such a ghoul.
One is to pin him to the earth by driving a stake of
aspen wood through his heart ; the other is to burn him
to ashes. The burning, as described in Russian tales, is
performed by a great crowd of people armed with
bushes, long brooms, shovels, and rakes. These gather
round the fire to drive back everything that comes from
the body. When the body is on the fire a short time it
bursts, and a whole legion of devilry rush forth in the
form of worms, snakes, bats, beetles, flies, birds ; these
try with all their might to get away. Each carries the
fate of the ghoul with it. If only one out of the crowd
escapes, the dead man will be eating people the next
night as actively as ever, but if the crowd drive every-
thing into the fire again he will be destroyed utterly.
A striking trait in the Irish fairy tales is the number
of observances caused by the presence of fairies, rules of
ordinary living, so to speak. For instance, nothing is
more pleasing to fairies than a well-swept kitchen and
clean water. A dirty kitchen and foul water bring their
The ghosts or night-walking dead, as they belong to
the other world, seem to have at least in some cases the
same likes and dislikes as the fairies. In the following tale
Michael Derrihy, the dead man brought from the tomb by
Tom Foley's Ghost 179
Kate, kills the three brothers because the people in the
house did not throw out dirty water and brought in none
that was cleans and he is determined that they shall stay
killed, for he tries to do away with the only cure that
can bring them to life again. Various acts of personal
uncleanliness involve punishment from the fairies. In
one tale they carry off from a mother an infant which
she fails to wash properly ; in another a careless, untidy
girl, who rises in the night and commits offensive acts in
the kitchen, is punished in a signal manner. There is
present a whole party of fairies, men and women, though
unseen by the girl. One of the women, who is making
tea, takes a saucer and hurls it at her as she is returning
to bed. The saucer is broken ; one half flies over the
bed to the wall beyond, the other is buried in the girPs
hip. She screams and wakes the whole house. No one
can help her. She is in bed for three years after that in
great suffering. No relief for her till her mother, who had
just earned the gratitude of the fairies by acts of service,
prays to have her daughter cured.
The fairy woman tells how the daughter offended and
how she was punished, says that if the mother will go to
the wall she will find one half of the saucer there ; if
she applies that to the affected part of the daughter's
body it will cure her. The mother does as directed.
One half of the saucer comes out of the hip to join the
other, and the girl is cured straightway.
When the fairies are maltreated or despised they take
180 Tales of the Fairies
ample vengeance; they punish severely. They are
generous in a like degree for services or acts of kindness.
So far as fairy methods of action are revealed to us in
tales and popular beliefs, they constitute a system of
rewards and punishments regulating the intercourse
between this world and another. They are parts of
an early religion in which material services are rewarded
by material benefits, and in which conduct bordering
upon morality is inculcated.
The ghosts, mainly malignant and nearly all women,
are represented as partly under fairy rules and partly
under Church punishment. Their position is not fixed
THE BLOOD-DRAWING GHOST
There was a young man in the parish of Drimalegue,
county Cork, who was courting three girls at one time,
and he didn't know which of them would he take ; they
had equal fortunes, and any of the three was as pleasing
to him as any other. One day when he was coming
home from the fair with his two sisters, the sisters
" Well, John," said one of them, " why don't you get
The Blood-drawing Ghost 181
married. Why don't you take either Mary, or Peggy, or
" I can't tell you that," said John, " till I find which
of them has the best wish for me."
" How will you know ? " asked the other.
" I will tell you that as soon as any person will die in
In three weeks' time from that day an old man died.
John went to the wake and then to the funeral. While
they were burying the corpse in the graveyard John
stood near a tomb which was next to the grave, and
when all were going away, after burying the old man, he
remained standing a while by himself, as if thinking of
something ; then he put his blackthorn stick on top of
the tomb, stood a while longer, and on going from the
graveyard left the stick behind him. He went home and
ate his supper. After supper John went to a neighbour's
house where young people used to meet of an evening,
and the three girls happened to be there that time.
John was very quiet, so that every one noticed him.
"What is troubling you this evening, John?" asked
one of the girls.
" Oh, I am sorry for my beautiful blackthorn,"
"Did you lose it?"
" I did not," said John ; " but I left it on the top of
the tomb next to the grave of the man who was buried
to-day, and whichever of you three will go for it is the
1 82 Tales of the Fairies
woman I'll marry. Well, Mary, . will you go for my
stick ? " asked he.
" Faith, then, I will not," said Mary.
" Well, Peggy, will you go ? "
" If I were without a man for ever," said Peggy, " I
"Well, Kate," said he to the third, "will you go for
my stick ? If you go I'll marry you."
" Stand to .your word," said Kate, " and I'll bring the
" Believe me, that I will," said John.
Kate left the company behind her, and went for the
stick. The graveyard was three miles away and the
walk was a long one. Kate came to the place at last
and made out the tomb by the fresh grave. When she
had her hand on the blackthorn a voice called from
the tomb :
" Leave the stick where it is and open this tomb
Kate began to tremble and was greatly in dread, but
something was forcing her to open the tomb — she
couldn't help herself.
"Take the lid off now," said the dead man when
Kate had the door open and was inside in the tomb,
" and take me out of this — take me on your back."
Afraid to refuse, she took the lid from the coffin,
raised the dead man on her back, and walked on in the
way he directed. She walked about the distance of a
The Blood-drawing Ghost 183
mile. The load, being very heavy, was near breaking
her back and killing her. She walked half a mile
farther and came to a village ; the houses were at the
side of the road.
" Take me to the first house," said the dead man.
She took him.
' Oh, we cannot go in here," said he, when they came
near. "The people have clean water inside, and they
have holy water, too. Take me to the next house."
She went to the next house.
" We cannot go in there," said he, when she stopped
in front of the door. "They have clean water, but
there is holy water as well."
She went to the third house.
" Go in here," said the dead man. " There is neither
clean water nor holy water in this place ; we can stop
They went in.
" Bring a chair now and put me sitting at the side
of the fire. Then find me something to eat and to
She placed him in a chair by the hearth, searched
the house, found a dish of oatmeal and brought it. " I
have nothing to give you to drink but dirty water,"
"Bring me a dish and a razor."
She brought the dish and the razor.
" Come, now," said he, " to the room above."
184 Tales of the Fairies
They went up to the room, where three young men
sons of the man of the house, were sleeping in bed, and
Kate had to hold the dish while the dead man was
drawing their blood.
" Let the father and mother have that," said he, " in
return for the dirty water ; " meaning that if there was
clean water in the house he wouldn't have taken the
blood of the young men. He closed their wounds in
the way that there was no sign of a cut on them, " Mix
this now with the meal, get a dish of it for yourself and
another for me."
She got two plates and put the oatmeal in it after
mixing, it and brought two spoons. Kate wore a hand-
kerchief on her head ; she put this under her neck and
tied it ; she was pretending to eat, but she was putting
the food to hide in the handkerchief till her plate was
" Have you your share eaten ? " asked the dead
" I have," answered Kate.
"I'll have mine finished this minute," said he, and
soon after he gave her the empty dish. She put the
dishes back in the dresser, and didn't mind washing
them. " Come, now," said he, " and take me back to
the place where you found me."
" Oh, how can I take you back ; you are too great a
load ; 'twas killing me you were when I brought you."
She was in dread of going from the houses again.
The Blood-drawing Ghost 185
" You are stronger after that food than what you were
in coming ; take me back to my grave."
She went against her will. She rolled up the food
inside in the handkerchief. There was a deep hole in
the wall of the kitchen by the door, where the bar was
slipped in when they barred the door ; into this hole she
put the handkerchief. In going back she shortened the
road by going through a big field at command of the
dead man. When they were at the top of the field she
asked, was there any cure for those young men whose
blood was drawn ?
" There is no cure," said he, " except one. If any of
that food had been spared, three bits of it in each young
man's mouth would bring them to life again, and they'd
never know of their death."
" Then," said Kate in her own mind, " that cure is
to be had."
" Do you see this field ? " asked the dead man.
"Well there is as much gold buried in it as would
make rich people of all who belong to you. Do you see
the three leachtans (piles of small stone) ? Underneath
each pile of them is a pot of gold."
The dead man looked around for a while ; then Kate
went on, without stopping, till she came to the wall of
the graveyard, and just then they heard the cock crow.
" The cock is crowing," said Kate ; " it's time for me
to be going home."
1 86 Tales of the Fairies
" It is not time yet," said the dead man ; " that is a
A moment after that another cock crowed. " There
the cocks are crowing a second time," said she. " No,"
said the dead man, "that is a bastard cock again ; that's
no right bird." They came to the mouth of the tomb
and a cock crowed the third time.
"Well," said the girl, "that must be the right
" Ah, my girl, that cock has saved your life for you.
But for him I would have you with me in the grave
for evermore, and if I knew this cock would crow before
I was in the grave you wouldn't have the knowledge you
have now of the field and the gold. Put me into the
coffin where you found me. Take your time and settle
me well. I cannot meddle with you now, and 'tis sorry
I am to part with you."
" Will you tell me who you are ? " asked Kate.
" Have you ever heard your father or mother mention
a man called Edward Derrihy or his son Michael ? "
" It's often I heard tell of them " replied the girl.
" Well, Edward Derrihy was my father ; I am Michael.
That blackthorn that you came for to-night to this grave-
yard was the lucky stick for you, but if you had any
thought of the danger that was before you, you wouldn't
be here. Settle me carefully and close the tomb well
She placed him in the coffin carefully, closed the door
The Blood-drawing Ghost 187
behind her, took the blackthorn stick, and away home
with Kate. The night was far spent when she came.
She was tired, and it's good reason the girl had. She
thrust the stick into the thatch above the door of the
house and rapped. Her sister rose up and opened the
" Where did you spend the night ? " asked the sister.
" Mother will kill you in the morning for spending the
whole night from home."
"Go to bed," answered Kate, "and never mind
They went to bed, and Kate fell asleep the minute
she touched the bed, t she was that tired after the
When the father and mother of the three young men
rose next morning, and there was no sign of their sons,
the mother went to the room to call them, and there she
found the three dead. She began to screech and wring
her hands. She ran to the road screaming and wailing.
All the neighbours crowded around to know what trouble
was on her. She told them her three sons were lying
dead in their bed after the night. Very soon the report
spread in every direction. When Kate's father and
mother heard it they hurried off to the house of the dead
men. When they came home Kate was still in bed;
the mother took a stick and began to beat the girl
for being out all the night and in bed all the day.
" Get up now, you lazy stump of a girl," said she,
1 88 Tales of the Fairies
" and go to the wake-house ; your neighbour's three sons
Kate took no notice of this. " I am very tired and
sick," said she. " You'd better spare me and give me a
The mother gave her a drink of milk and a bite
to eat, and in the middle of the day she rose up.
" Tis a shame for you not to be at the wake-house
yet," said the mother ; " hurry over now."
When Kate reached the house there was a great crowd
of people before her and great wailing. She did not cry,
but was looking on. The father was as if wild, going up
and down the house wringing his hands.
" Be quiet," said Kate. " Control yourself."
" How can I do that, my dear girl, and my three fine
sons lying dead in the house ? "
" What would you give," asked Kate, " to the person
who would bring life to them again ? "
" Don't be vexing me," said the father.
" It's neither vexing you I am nor trifling," said Kate,
" I can put the life in them again."
" If it was true that you could do that, I would give
you all that J have inside the house and outside as well."
" All I want from you," said Kate, " is the eldest son
to marry and Gort na Leachtan (the field of the stone
heaps) as fortune."
" My dear, you will have that from me with the greatest
The Blood-drawing Ghost 189
" Give me the field in writing from yourself, whether
the son will marry me or not."
He gave her the field in his handwriting. She told all
who were inside in the wake- house to go outside the door,
every man and woman of them. Some were laughing
at her and more were crying, thinking it was mad she was.
She bolted the door inside, and went to the place where
she left the handkerchief, found it, and put three bites of
the oatmeal and the blood in the mouth of each young
man, and as soon as she did that the three got their
natural colour, and they looked like men sleeping. She
opened the door, then called on all to come inside, and
told the father to go and wake his sons.
He called each one by name, and as they woke they
seemed very tired after their night's rest ; they put on
their clothes, and were greatly surprised to see all the
people around. " How is this ? " asked the eldest
" Don't you know of anything that came over you in
the night ? " asked the father.
" We do not," said the sons. " We remember nothing
at all since we fell asleep last evening."
The father then told them everything, but they could
not believe it. Kate went away home and told her father
and mother of her night's journey to and from the grave-
yard, and said that she would soon tell them more.
That day she met John.
" Did you bring the stick ? " asked he.
190 Tales of the Fairies
" Find your own stick," said she, " and never speak to
me again in your life."
In a week's time she went to the house of the three
young men, and said to the father, " I have come for
what you promised me."
"You'll get that with my blessing," said the father.
He called the eldest son aside then and asked would he
marry Kate, their neighbour's daughter. " I will," said
the son. Three days after that the two were married
and had a fine wedding. For three weeks they enjoyed
a pleasant life without toil or trouble ; then Kate said,
" This will not do for us ; we must be working. Come
with me to-morrow and I'll give yourself and brothers
plenty to do, and my own father and brothers as
She took them next day to one of the stone heaps in
Gort na Leachtan. " Throw these stones to one side,"
They thought that she was losing her senses, but
she told them that they'd soon see for themselves what
she was doing. They went to work and kept at it till
they had six feet deep of a hole dug ; then they met
with a flat stone three feet square and an iron hook in
the middle of it.
" Sure there must be something underneath this," said
the men. They lifted the flag, and under it was a pot of
gold. All were very happy then. " There is more gold
yet in the place," said Kate. "Come, now, to the other
The Blood-drawing Ghost 191
heap." They removed that heap, dug down, and found
another pot of gold. They removed the third pile and
found a third pot full of gold. On the side of the third
pot was an inscription, and they could not make out
what it was. After emptying it they placed the pot by
the side of the door.
About a month later a poor scholar walked the way,
and as he was going in at the door he saw the old pot
and the letters on the side of it. He began to study the
4 'You must be a good scholar if you can read what's
on that pot," said the young man.
" I can," said the poor scholar, " and here it is for
you. There is a deal more at the south side of each
The young man said nothing, but putting his hand in
his pocket, gave the poor scholar a good day's hire.
When he was gone they went to work and found a deal
more of gold in the south side of each stone heap. They
were very happy then and very rich, and bought several
farms and built fine houses, and it was supposed by all of
them in the latter end that it was Derrihy's money that
was buried under the leachtans, but they could give no
correct account of that, and sure why need they care ?
When they died they left property to make their children
rich to the seventh generation.
192 Tales of the Fairies
The following things happened about sixty years" ago.
In those times people used to go nine and ten miles to
Mass, especially of a Christmas Day. Four men in the
parish of Drummond went , to Cahirdonnell to Mass on
Christmas and didn't start for home till after nightfall.
The four were a young master with his servant-boy, and
two married men, small farmers. When they came to a
certain side path the young master with his servant-boy
turned in there to go home, and the two others followed
the main road. The men on the road were not far away
when they heard a wild screech in the field.
" What can that be ? " asked one. " Something must
be happening ; the night is dark."
They heard a second screech, but went on without
Next morning a messenger came to inquire where did
they leave the young master and the servant-boy, and
the men said, " AVe left them when they turned from
the main road to go home through the field."
" They didn't come," said the messenger, " and I'm in
dread they are killed."
All the neighbours went to search for the two, and
found the young man dead, a long distance out from
the path, and he black and blue, as people are always
Murderous Ghosts 193
when killed by ghosts or fairies. They couldn't find
the servant boy high or low.
The father of the young man sat up waiting all the
night before for his son. About midnight he heard a
terrible wind blowing around the house outside. He
rose, bolted the door, and sat down by the fire again.
A few minutes later there was a great struggle in front of
the house and a noise as of some one making a kick at
the door to open it. This was the servant boy who
came to the house before the ghost and tried to break in.
When he couldn't move the door he ran to the haggart,
where there were two stacks of hay. He sprang to one
of the stacks to climb up and defend himself from the
top of the stack. The ghost pulled him down, but he
brought his two fists full of dry hay with him. The
ghost drove him out ,of the haggart and hunted him
through seven fields to a river. Next day he was found
on the bank dead, and he all black and blue. His sus-
penders broke, and he would never have been killed but
that they broke : the cross on his back made by the
suspenders would have saved him. His two fists were
still grasping the hay.
About ten years later this very same ghost, a woman,
attacked a man who was out late and was coming home
with a hatchet on his shoulder and a saw in his hand.
The man used the saw well, striking her with it, and she
couldn't get at him through the steel. She knocked
three or four falls out of him, but he rose each time ;
194 Tales of the Fairies
she struck one of his eyes and he lost the use of it. At
last, after a great struggle, he came to a place where a
stream of water was running across the road, and she
couldn't follow him through that, for no ghost can follow
a person through water. When he reached the other
side he stood and looked at her. "You have your-
self saved ; you are a strong man : the best that came
before me since I killed such and such a man
ten years ago," said she, mentioning the servant
boy and the master, "but if I haven't the better of
you yet, you have a keepsake from me that will stay
The man went home, took to the bed, and didn't live
six months. He was pining away every day till he
Some time later a man was drowned in Waterville,
and he was one of the two farmers who came on Christ-
mas night from Mass at Cahirdonnell with the master
and servant boy that were killed. Three months after
this man's death his wife went with her brother match-
making in the town. The brother settled a match
between herself and a man living in Drummond
parish, which is over the mountains from Cahirciveen.
She got marriage quittance from the priest in
Cahirciveen, paid ten shillings for it, and put it in her
That evening she and the brother started to go to the
Murderous Ghosts 195
house of a friend who lived next door to the man she
was going to marry, for it*s there the wedding was to be.
She kept the marriage quittance in her pocket. When
they were about half-way it commenced to snow, and when
they were half a mile from the house she began to fall
" Yerra, what is the matter? " asked the brother.
" My first husband is killing me ! " said she.
The brother tried his best to save her, but no use ;
he got blows enough himself and saw nobody. At last
he took off his coat. He had a stick in his hand ; he
stuck the stick down in the ground and hung the coat
on it to mark the place, for the land all around was
white from snow. He left his sister there and ran to the
friend's house (the house was no more than a quarter of
a mile away) to bring help and save the sister. When
the two came with a few neighbours the woman was
dead, and the place for ten perches around was torn up
as with a horse and plough.
All the people said, and the priest himself agreed
with them, that it was against the rules for the
woman to carry the marriage quittance, and if the
brother had carried it the ghost would have spared
I knew a man named Tom Moran who lived a few
miles from Cahirciveen. I knew Tom and his wife very
well, but at the time my story begins Tom wasn't
196 Tales of the Fairies
One time he was kept late in town by the shoemaker,
and on the road home he met a strange priest on horse-
back. The priest stopped him. " Why are you out so
late, my good man," asked the priest ; " 'tis in your bed
you should be. The night outside belongs to the dead
and the house to the living."
" Why are you outside yourself? " asked Tom.
" ? Tis my business to be out at all times," said the
priest. " Is it often you are out at night ? "
" It is then," said Tom.
" Go home, now," said the priest, " the night is no
time for travelling."
When Tom came home he put his white horse out-
side in a little field so as to be able to put his hands on
him easily and have no delay in the morning, for he was
to go to the strand very early for seaweed. He wasn't
long in bed when he heard the horse galloping around
the house and making a great noise. Tom ran out in
his shirt to see what the trouble was, but if he did he
couldn't come near the horse.
Out on to the road with the horse and Tom after him,
in shirt and bare feet. Tom followed till he came to a
very lonesome place at the side of a graveyard, about
two miles from his own house. The horse turned in
there, and Tom followed closely till they came to a field,
where the horse disappeared; and no wonder, for the
field was full up of men and horses. Tom stepped aside
Murderous Ghosts 197
into a corner. All the crowd moved from the field and
went past him toward the road. When they went out
the road was covered with people and horses moving to-
wards Cahirciveen. All at once they shot away quickly
and Tom came home alone. He found his horse in the
field where he put him at first. It was a fairy horse that
gave him the turn to the graveyard.
Some time after this Tom Moran married in this parish
and his wife died in twelve months after the marriage.
Nine or ten months after her death Tom was going home
one night from Cahirciveen He was matchmaking all
day to know could he find a new wife, and he wasn't
above a quarter of a mile from the town when he met the
"You are here, you ruffian, " said she. " Isn't it soon
for you to be marrying again ? You didn't give time to
my footprints to leave the puddle in the yard or the hair
to fall from my head in the grave before you are looking
for a second wife, but I'll pay you well to-night for your
She went at him then and knocked him, but he rose
up and walked on. She made after him and took
another fall out of him.
" Now," said she, " if I don't take a third fall out of
you before you go to Needham's gate you will be saved ;
but if I do you are done for."
Just at the gate she knocked him a third time
198 Tales of the Fairies
and left him. Tom made his way home and sent for
the priest and told him everything, he told the neigh-
bours as well. He didn't live more than three or four
days. (Needham's gate is about half a mile from
Note. — The tales from p. 156 to the end were told by
Dyeermud Sheehy, a cartman for years between Killarney and
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The Midwife or Listowel 43
u I will not say whether I think the fairies are fallen
angels or who they are, but I remember a case in which
a woman lost an aye through the fairies** 7
u If you do/' said I, "I hope you will tell it"
6t I will indeed" said he*
There was an old woman, a midwife, who lived in a
little house by herself between this and Listowel. One
evening there was a knock at the door ; she opened it>
and what should she see but a man who said she was
wanted* and to go with him quickly. He begged her to
hurry* She made herself ready at once, the man waiting
outside* When she was ready the man sprang on a fine,
large horse* and put her up behind him. Away raced the
horse then. They went a great distance in such a short
time that it seemed to her only two or three miles. They
came to a splendid, large house and went in. The old
woman found a beautiful lady inside* No other woman
was to be seen* A child was born soon, and the man
brought a vial of ointment, told the old woman to rub it
on the child, but to have a great care and not touch her
own self with it She obeyed him and had no intention
of touching herself, but on a sudden her left eye itched.
She raised her hand, and rubbed the eye with one finger,
Some of the ointment was on her linger, and that instant
she saw great crowds of people around her, men and
women* She knew that she was in a fort among fairies,
and was frightened, but had courage enough not to show
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